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Backpack to Pecks Corner Shelter and Backcountry Site #50

Bryson City, Tennessee



20.7 miles

Elevation Gain

-2690 ft

Route Type



Added by Sophie Justinak

See the full spectrum of the Great Smoky Mountains with vast, exposed ridgelines on the A.T. and intimate river wanderings along Chasteen Creek.

Before Starting Your Trip: Get your Great Smoky Mountains NP Backcountry permit here and check road/trail conditions here. Arrange a shuttle to transport you to the start, or pick you up at the end. Shuttle Services here. I would highly recommend "A Walk in the Woods" as they were highly knowledgeable and reliable! Also if you do not live in the area I would recommend staying at Smokemont or Elkmont frontcountry campsites (reservations here) so that you can get situated the night before, and get up early to start backpacking. Front-country reservations can't be made year-round and Elkmont is very popular in the Spring/Summer.

Day 1 to Pecks Corner Shelter [10.4 miles]:

Park your car at, or shuttle to, Newfound Gap. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is marked by a wooden sign at the east side of Newfound Gap, just past the Rockefeller Memorial. Trail starts at 5,049 ft.

The trail gains approx. 600 ft during the first 1.7 miles before reaching the intersection with Sweat Heifer Creek Trail. Continue straight one mile to The Boulevard trail intersection. The Boulevard leads to the iconic Mt. LeConte Lodge. Follow the rightmost trail to stay on the Appalachian.

The next 1.7 miles climb towards Icewater Spring Shelter and then fall to Charlie's Bunyan (elevation 5,565 ft). I highly recommend taking the left fork to Charlie's Bunyan as it has spectacular views and a great stop for lunch. The Bunyan is a popular spot for adventurous day-hikers. 

The Charlie's Bunyan fork will return you back to the AT, where you will encounter less traffic along the next 6.0 miles of ridge-line. There is a steady climb to Laurel Top (5,907 ft), but the elevation has an overall descent as the trail turns southwest. Last you will reach a wooden sign marking the intersection with Hughes Ridge trail.

To get to Pecks Corner shelter leave the AT behind and follow Hughes Trail sharply right. Hughes Trail runs steeply towards the shelter's privy. A small sign marks the slope leading to the shelter. You can refill your water at the brook further down the slope. Bear cables are provided near the shelter.

Tips for AT Shelters: Be courteous of other's things, space, as well as their sleep schedules. Use a headlamp with a low-light setting when others are sleeping. Gathering fallen wood for the fire will be appreciated by the next night's users. BRING EAR PLUGS: All three of my companions and I hardly slept due to the chainsaw emanating from the man to our left. Pecks Corner consists of two wooden platforms for sleeping - so a sleeping pad is a must! If you don't like close quarters with strangers. I would bring a small tent to pitch nearby. 

Day 2 to Backcountry Site #50 (9.0 miles):

Catch Hughes Ridge trail by the shelter privy. Follow it south for 2.2 miles to the intersection with Bradley Fork trail. Keep left to stay on Hughes Ridge for another 2.5 miles. Relatively little elevation change.

Hughes trail will end and intersect with Chasteen Creek and Enloe Creek trails. Keep right to follow Chasteen Creek for 4.3 miles. 

Chasteen Creek trail loops down the mountain sides for a lot of elevation loss. It crosses over many small brooks, all eventually becoming Chasteen Creek as they feed into the valley. Plenty of places to refill your water bottles! 

The trail eventually flattens some and becomes a wide, rocky, horse-back riding path alongside the swift-moving, Chasteen Creek. A man-made bridge indicates you are less than a mile from backcountry site #50.

Backcountry site #50 is large enough to accommodate multiple tents and sits near the edge of several cascading creeks. All GSMNP backcountry sites have bear cables. Have your reservation info on-hand and follow Leave No Trace guidelines laid out on the backcountry website.

Day 3:

A 1.3 mile hike to Smokemont Campground will take you back to civilization. Have a shuttle waiting to bring you back to Newfound Gap, or proceed to whichever trailhead you parked your car at. Plenty of time left to enjoy the rest of the day!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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