Chapter 4: Tips for Secluded Hiking
We spent the past week exploring Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Neither of us has ever been to the area before, so we were going in blind! If you have visited PF before, then you probably already know that it is a pretty crowded place. Beautiful, but crowded. The only things we knew about Pigeon Forge is that it is, of course, home to the iconic Dollywood, and close to the breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So we knew there would be some crowds, but nothing like what we experienced. And we didn’t realize that Pigeon Forge itself was an amusement park of sorts like Dollywood.
We love a good amusement park, but when we think of travel, we think of hiking. And when we think of hiking, we think of seclusion.
A nice quiet trail where you can maybe spot a bear but definitely not other humans. At first glance, this kind of trail seems impossible to find within the hustle and bustle of Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains, but with a little trial and error, we ended up finding some really beautiful and relatively secluded spots in the picturesque Smokies.
If you are like us and want to find your own secluded spot in nature, here are our tips for finding the perfect spot!
1. Research online. We always like to start by researching online for cool hidden gems. Our personal favorites are the app AllTrails to see what each trail is like, Google Maps to see where the trailheads are, and also national, state, and county park websites for more accurate maps of trail distances and intersections.
2. Get lost. After researching to find the best trails, it’s easy to get caught up in going to see what’s most talked about online – in other words, going where everyone else is. But in the Smokies, we stumbled upon some of our favorite spots on a motorcycle ride to the less iconic side of the park! Spending some time exploring the area and taking a motorcycle ride or a drive around the area can reveal some beautiful trails away from all of the hustle and bustle.
3. Try local. It doesn’t take a national park or a major attraction to get outside and find some nature. When we spent some time in the Midwest, major attractions were hard to come by, so we looked for local parks. They were never crowded and always relaxing!
4. Consider the views. Everything in nature is beautiful and has something special to offer, but something to consider is that the places with the jaw-dropping views are probably going to have crowds. It’s a give and take, and you just have to decide what it is you hope to see for that hike. Tyler is all about being alone in nature and doesn’t focus on the view, while Andrea loves to find those breathtaking spots for her photography. It all depends on what is best for you!
5. Timing matters. If you want to hike the more popular trails, sometimes that means getting out early or late. It worked for us in Pigeon Forge! We went out before sunrise, hiked, saw a gorgeous view, and were headed back home while everyone else was only just arriving to start their hikes!
6. Ask the experts and the locals. No one knows the trails better than rangers. Calling or stopping by the national park visitor’s center or forest service ranger station usually gets you the most straightforward trail information. We always forget that this is an option, but the one time Andrea did this before going on a hike, it was really helpful! We also reach out to local friends, someone we meet at the grocery store, or even someone we find off Instagram for recommendations. We found our favorite hikes during our time in Marquette, MI from doing just that! Tyler reached out to some locals and actually interviewed them for his Strangers Worth Meeting podcast, and they gave us the scoop on some gorgeous trails.
We use these tips but still get stuck in crowds sometimes. You win some, you lose some – keep trying! We hope these tips help you escape the masses and find solitude in your next hike.
Tyler & Andrea
We are full-time adventure seekers taking on the world in our East to West RV! We have seen so much personal growth during our first year of nomad life that we wanted a way to capture all of those moments and share them with you! Our goal is to inspire everyone to chase after their dreams and always seek adventure in whatever they do.
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