From: April 15 to April 21, 2018

Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

  • Wildflowers & Waterfalls: Exploring the Great Smokies - FULL

    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is world famous for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and many excellent hiking trails. Our annual trip is a great way to begin your hiking season. Designed to give you an overview of one of our most treasured National Parks, our trip will give your hiking legs a great spring beginning to the hiking season. We'll see wildflowers and waterfalls, hiking at a leisurely pace to enhance our enjoyment of the scenery, take time to take pictures and identify flowers, and soak those 'winter tired' feet in beautiful pools at the edge of waterfalls. Whether you are intrigued by salamanders or birds, wildflowers or trees, waterfalls or mountain vistas, learning about the fascinating cultural history, or just seeking less traveled paths, you will quickly understand why the Great Smokies have been designated both an International Biosphere reserve and a World Heritage Site. On this trip we extend a special invitation to women over 50 and to anyone wanting leisurely hikes. Maximum group size: 12

    THIS TRIP IS FULL. To get on a waitlist, register for the trip (no deposit required)
  • This itinerary may be modified based on weather and where the wildflowers are best.

    Sunday, April 15
    If you're flying in, we'll meet you at the Knoxville Airport at noon. After driving to the Park, we start with an introduction to the cultural history of the Smokies by visiting the area once known to early settlers as the Little Greenbrier Community. We'll visit the Little Greenbrier School (first opened in 1882), a pioneer cemetery, and the Walker Sisters cabin and home site. This slightly ascending trail is along an old roadbed. If you are driving, please plan to be at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic parking lot (south side) by 2:00 pm. Little Brier Gap Trail, 2.6 miles. (D)

    Monday, April 16
    Our trail today rises at a steady, moderate grade as it passes through a forest of large Eastern Hemlocks and Fraser magnolias and then into a moist, sheltered cove hardwood forest. Well-known for its incredible display of wildflowers in April and May, the forest floor can be carpeted with up to 30 to 40 species of wildflowers. Rich in cultural history as well, Porters Creek trail passes the old Baxter Cabin, stone walls, an old cantilevered barn and the Owenby Cemetery, all remnants of the time that a thriving community lived here. We will hike to Fern Branch Falls and have lunch before turning back. Porters Creek Trail, about 4 miles. (B, L, D)

    Tuesday, April 17
    Our first stop this morning will be the Sugarlands Visitors Center where we'll take the opportunity to learn more about the park, its history and its natural inhabitants through the orientation film and their natural history museum. Then - back to hiking and the search for wildflowers! Traveling off the beaten path, today's trail leads into a natural limestone sink. White Oak Sink is home to many rare plants, various caves, and a waterfall that flows into a cave, offering unique opportunities to learn about the geology, natural history, and cultural history of the area. Spring wildflowers abound in the sink, coating the trail side with a beautiful variety of colors. Our hike begins on the School House Gap trail, an old roadbed with an easy uphill grade. Shortly we'll turn off the Schoolhouse Gap trail onto the trail to White Oak Sink, an unmaintained trail with occasional steep ascents and descents. White Oak Sink, 5.0 miles (B, L, D)

    Wednesday, April 18
    Ready to give your legs a break and see a completely different part of the ecosystem? We'll enjoy breakfast out at the Log Cabin Pancake House and then onto the white water of the Pigeon River! Although the rapids are large enough to be exciting, the trip is completely appropriate for novice rafters. Returning to Gatlinburg we'll make our way up to the highest points of the park -- New Found Gap and a short walk on the Appalachian Trail to Clingman's Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point on the eastern side of the U.S. (B, L, D)

    Thursday, April 19
    We're going to do two very different hikes this morning! Staring with a visit to Bud Ogle's farm, we'll take the 1.2 mile nature hike and explore what a typical homestead was like in this part of the country, including a plume for water and an grist mill! After that, we'll journey over to Laurel Falls for a pleasant walk out to one of the most spectacular and most visited of all the falls in the Smokies.

    After lunch back at our lodge, you can choose one of three ways to enjoy your afternoon: ziplining (not included in the trip fee); a hike to Grotto Falls (a moderate 2.6 mile hike to one of the more spectacular waterfalls in the Smokies) with one of the guides; or, since it is vacation, you might want to just spend a relaxing afternoon back at the lodge, enjoying the porch or hot tub. Your guides will help you sort out the options and help you get where you want to go. Mileage will vary depending on choice made. (B, L, D)

    Friday, April 20
    Our trek today will take us through Eastern Hemlock and deciduous forests as we hike along the Maddron Bald Trail. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), the trail begins as an old roadbed and rises consistently, though moderately, throughout its entire length. Albright Grove, named for Horace Albright who was an advocate for the park and a director for the National Park Service, is an awesome remnant of old growth forest. Here you will experience the sights, sounds, and feel of this home to ancient trees. We'll have plenty of time to stroll among and admire the grand Eastern Hemlocks, silverbells, Fraser magnolias, tulip trees, and other tree species before returning along the Maddron Bald Trail. Albright Grove and Maddron Bald Trail, 6.7 miles. (B, L, D)

    Saturday, April 21
    It's our last morning in the Smokies but we'll continue to savor every minute! We'll take our time this morning, enjoy our last breakfast together and the view from the lodge, before making our way back. We'll fit in a visit to Sugarlands Visitors Center for one last chance for any items you may just have to have. And then we continue reluctantly to the Knoxville airport. If you're driving, you can plan to leave by 10 a.m. If you're flying we'll return you to the Knoxville airport by 11:00 am for a flight out after 12:00 noon.
  • $1975 (see this page for discounts).  $300 deposit. *If you are coming with someone with whom you would like to share a room (and bed), you can each deduct $350 in addition to whatever other discounts you're eligible for.

    Trip Includes

    • Two experienced AGC guides
    • Six nights lodging in a private room with ensuite bathroom
    • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast Saturday
    • Transportation to/from the Knoxville airport (TYS) and transportation during the trip
    • White water rafting and rafting guide gratuities

    Not included: Airfare to/from Knoxville (TYS), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and optional activities (such as ziplining)
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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    It depends on both the trip and on your specific needs. With advance notice, we can accommodate most dietary restrictions or allergies on our domestic trips, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten intolerant. This is not always true on international trips, so please contact us in advance if you have specific dietary needs. We've found that if you are willing to bring some of your own snacks and a couple of items to supplement what is on the menu (peanut butter is always good!) and possibly have less variety than you are used to at home, then dietary needs usually are no obstacle. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, especially if you have Celiac disease, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Seeing up to 30 species of wildflowers on any hike
  • Rafting a fun section of the Pigeon River (suitable for women with no experience)
  • Visiting Little Greenbrier Community and learning about the people who lived here
  • Hiking beautiful trails, and lunch everyday next to a waterfall
  • Gazing at the view from the hot tub and luxuriating in your own private room

Register for this trip today

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