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Embrace the great outdoors and get planning a trip to Great Smoky Mountains. Here are some top tips for the essential items you need to pack!
Great Smoky Mountains Packing List
Written By: Laura Pulling
Table Of Contents
Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the US and it’s clear to see why. With waterfalls, wildlife, and hikes along rivers and mountain ranges, you can get closer to Mother Nature in this best of the US wilderness.
Great Smoky Mountains have a variable temperate climate that’s influenced by its various altitudes, so be sure to consider your particular plan when pondering things to pack—think layers! During the warmer summer months, which are seen as the best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains, highs range from 70 to 75 °F, although rain is common no matter the season.
Nature fans also enjoy visiting and seeing the changing autumnal colors in October, before the winter chill sets in. It’s a wonderful place to take a day hike, or go into the wilderness and set up camp for a night or two.
Here are all the things you need to take on a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
What to Wear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
When there is so much to see and do you want to be comfortable enough to trek for miles. So having suitable sturdy hiking shoes is vital when planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. There are a ton of trails, so you’re going to be walking a lot, especially to get up the mountains for the best views.
When choosing the best shoes, look for ones that are waterproof and have a sturdy sole and quality tread. Check that they are supportive of your ankle, and can withstand the types of activities you’ll be doing. (Think distance and type of hike – are you a casual three-mile walker, or a wilderness warrior?)
Generally speaking, a pair of hiking shoes like these Merrell ventilated shoes, will work well for most seasons. If you’re planning on traveling in colder weather, we suggest investing in a pair of hiking boots.
Check out more hiking shoe and boot options!
If you’re traveling during the warmer months, a pair of these Keen hiking sandals could be a cooler option, as they are lightweight, breathable, and double up as water shoes because they’re waterproof. For more ideas, you can shop our favorite outdoor sandals!
Long bottoms or even specific hiking pants are your best option for a day of hiking in a National Park. They will save your calves and ankles from untamed branches that escape the trail to scratch and scrape at you. Plus, you’re also more protected from the bugs and nasties that love to bite and gnaw on exposed skin.
These Columbia Tail pants which come in sizes 2-24 (regular, tall, petitie) and plus sizes 16W-22W have great pocket space, and material that doesn’t snag easily and isn’t stiff. Dirt brushes right off them, and you can roll them up and snap them into Capri length when the weather gets a little warmer.
Choose pants that are moisture wicking and quick drying, in case you get caught in a downpour. If you do prefer shorts, or maybe even a skort, look for ones with handy pockets.
Layers are great, and t-shirts are the most versatile of tops in all weather situations. For a long hike, get one with moisture-wicking properties, like this Icebreaker t-shirt, to keep sweat at bay. Try a lightweight vest if you have an especially warm day.
In the afternoon as it cools, or if you’re hiking in a shady region, a long sleeved tee could be beneficial as it keeps you from feeling the chill, plus adds a layer of protection.
Around sunrise and sunset, the weather can change by a few degrees, no matter what the season. Packing a fleece jacket as an additional layer, can keep you from feeling cold and ruining a great day by not having the clothing for it.
Fleece is a great travel fabric as it is easy to roll up and stuff inside your backpack without worrying about it getting creased (you could even pop it in a packing cube). Check out some fleece travel jackets here!
Your outfit needs to match all kinds of weather, so layers are a must for a day on the trail at Great Smoky Mountains. If you’re on a sunrise hike you may find yourself starting your journey when it’s feeling rather chilly, but by the end, it can easily be much warmer. Layers are removable and can help you adjust to the changing warmth (that also hits as you walk more!)
Wear or pack some merino wool undergarments, as they are thin but cozy. They have sweat-wicking properties to help to keep you dry, no matter how tough the hike gets.
Check out a full range of base layer options that’ll keep you warm on the trails!
The North Face Venture Jacket | Sizes XS-XXXL
If you’re traversing to Rainbow Falls, or trekking up the 5000-foot hike of Mount Sterling you are exposed to different elements. A lightweight rain jacket is essential for your trip. Plus, rain showers occur, no matter what the season is, so you’ll want a jacket that keeps you dry.
Choose a jacket that’s lightweight, waterproof, and windproof. Preferably, one with a hood will have you covered (literally) no matter what the weather!
This North Face Jacket is waterproof and seam-sealed for optimal protection. It’s heavily functional while remaining lightweight and breathable.
You can have the best hiking shoes on the market, but you also need the socks to go with them. Your everyday socks teamed with an eight-hour hike, is just asking for blisters! Try merino wool socks, they keep your feet super dry and prevent any rubbing from your shoes after a long day on the Alum Cave trail. We even recommend taking a spare pair in your backpack, for those “just in case” situations. (wrap them in a packing cube to keep them totally dry).
If you’re going to experience some of the water sports on offer, or take a dip in the various swimming holes (Little Pigeon River banks have several options—plus a spot for tubing!), you’re going to want to pack a swimsuit too.
Things to Bring to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Depending on the length of your stay at Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll either need a backpack or a day pack. If you’re camping you’ll need a bigger bag to ensure all of your equipment can fit in easily and it is comfortable enough to wear until you make it to your campsite (especially if you have to walk for some of the way).
The most important features are it needs to be water resistant and adjusted well to fit your frame. This Osprey backpack is a great option for hikers, as it has a ventilated mesh back panel with an ultra-comfortable waffle foam harness. The hip belt provides superb fit, and it’s anti-gravity system will help relieve pressure and stave off any unwanted pain when carrying it for a long time!
To be a star packer, you can also use Compass Rose packing cubes to help you pack your backpack for your trip. They’re great for keeping your different layers in, and the numbered and color-coded pouches will keep you extra organized.
If you are planning a day trip to Great Smoky Mountains to see the vast array of wildlife, or just for a hike to Chimney Tops Falls, you can fit essentials in a day pack. Choose one that’s lightweight and for ultimate comfort, look for a pack that has padded mesh back support and a waist strap. The Patagonia Nine Trails pack allows you to bounce around the trails with enough room to pack hydration and layers!
Take a look at more top recommended ultralight backpacks!
During the day, the sun beats down in all seasons, and if you’re walking, you might not feel the effects of it until you have a sunburnt pink nose and cheeks (never a stylish look!)
This Columbia wide brimmed hat can cover your entire face and has UPF 50 and is moisture-wicking. It’s a great option to keep you cool as you hike!
A water bottle is as essential as it gets. You need to stay hydrated on the trail, and being prepared is a necessity.
A vacuum style bottle and they can keep your water icy cold for hours into your hike. Or a squishy bottle, like this one from Vapur Elements, can be squeezed to fit your pack and take up almost no space once you are finished with it. Some bottles even have a hook to allow you to clip them to your backpack for easy access.
Check out the top rated water bottles that TFG readers love!
Bear Proof Accessories
There are black bears living in the Great Smoky Mountains, and the rangers advise that you stay out of their way. Bear pepper spray is available in camping shops close to the parks (you can’t fly with it), but also consider smell-proof bags, or a hanging tree pack, for your outdoor picnics.
Additional Gear Checklist for Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Bug Spray
- Hiking poles
- Empty bag for trash
- First aid kit
- Map and compass
- Female urination device and toilet paper (put these in a plastic bag to take back with you – leave no trace)
- Extra layer of clothing (in case you get cold)
What are your tips on what to wear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Share your packing list below!
For more National Park packing tips, please read:
- What to Pack for Yellowstone National Park: Clothes, Shoes, and Gear
- What to Wear in Utah: National Parks in Summer
- What to Wear in California to Explore the Beautiful National Parks
- Packing for Canadian National Parks in Summer: What You Need to Know
For more camping and hiking tips, please read:
- What to Bring on a Camping Trip
- What to Wear When Visiting Utah National Park: Springs
- What to Wear in California: National Parks
- How to Pack for a USA Road Trip
Suggested travel resources:
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