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The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog

The best source for trail information in the Smoky Mountains
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Recent Articles

6/22 Attack of the Woollys                                                                                             Widespread loss of hemlocks will undoubtedly bring about significant changes to the Smoky Mountains.

6/17 Smokies Life Magazine Review                                                                                          Iím not into fishing, nor do I care for snakes, so why would I want to read anything about two subjects I really have no interest in?

6/12 Bobcat on the Appalachian Trail                                                                                               ....not bad for someone hiking her first long distance trail, especially for someone who was forced off the trail for two weeks after tearing a ligament in her foot.

6/7 Summer Hiking: How to Beat the Heat                                                                         Summer hiking season is already upon us. Anyone who has ever been to the Smoky Mountains during the summer knows how hot and humid it can get in the Southern Appalachians.

6/4 Bear Grylls: Egomaniac vs Wild                                                                                              If the average weekend warrior followed all of Grylls advice, he/she will probably end up doing some stupid things in certain survival situations.

5/30 Best of Wildflower Photographs                                                                                          I've created a gallery of my best wildflower photographs from this spring in the Smoky Mountains. In all, there are four pages of photographs in this gallery.

5/22 New Additions For                                                                 Weíve added a 6 minute video showing highlights from our hike up Mount LeConte. You can check out the video, a few pictures, as well as the complete report by clicking:

5/5 Origins of the Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains
There are roughly 900 miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thereís also a lot of history underneath the trails we walk along today. How were these trails established? Who blazed them, and why?

June 30, 2008

Training for the Big Hike 


So, you have a big hike lined up in a couple of weeks. Youíve done your research, you know how many miles youíll be hiking, and you know how much elevation youíll be climbing that day, but are really ready? Thereís nothing worse than getting half-way through a hike and feeling like youíve already gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.


You can avoid that feeling by doing a little training beforehand.


Whether your long distance hike is 5 miles, 10 miles, or an extreme day hike of 15 or more miles, being properly conditioned will make your hike a lot more enjoyable.


Although whatís considered to be a long hike for any individual is purely relative, weíll use the 11 mile hike up to Gregory Bald as our example of a long distance hike for purposes of this article.


The best way to train for any sporting event is to train specifically for that event. In other words, if you want to hike a long distance trail, itís best to get out on a trail to simulate the conditions of the big day. However, for many people, finding a trail to train on may not be convenient. Walking in your local neighborhood or in a park is an excellent alternative. Iíve trained for a handful of hikes up 14K foot peaks in Colorado by walking in my neighborhood here in Louisville, Ky. With peaks slightly higher than your average ant hill here in Louisville, I obviously wasnít able to simulate the type of climbing I experienced in Colorado, but I was still able to sufficiently train my walking muscles.


Roughly six weeks prior to each of these hikes I created a schedule and began training in which my walking miles slowly increased.


Using the example of preparing for the 11 mile hike up to Gregory Bald, you should probably start training roughly 4 weeks before the actual hike. This assumes you already have a minimal amount of conditioning. Obviously if you have no conditioning, or a lot, then this schedule would need to be altered accordingly.


During the first two weeks of training you could probably get away with walking just three days a week. During the first week, two of those walks should be at least 2-3 miles long, and the third walk should be in the 4 to 5 mile range. During the second week, you should ratchet up your long walk day to around 6 or 7 miles. The other two days should consist of walks of at least 3 miles per day. If youíre going to be climbing any significant elevation on your hike, you should try to include as many hills into your routine as possible. The Gregory Bald Trail climbs roughly 3000 feet. This is a strenuous hike for almost anyone.


During week 3, youíll probably want to add a fourth day of walking into your schedule. Your long walk day, which preferably should be 7 days from your big hike, should now be in the 8 to 9 mile range.


During the final week before your hike, you should still be walking on at least 2 or 3 days. Each of those walks should be in the 4 to 6 mile range. If youíre already on vacation, use the days leading up to your big hike to train on some shorter trails. Make sure youíre well rested though. At a minimum, the day before your hike should be a rest day, meaning, no training on that day. You might even consider taking two days off prior to your hike. This way, your leg muscles will be well rested and youíll be ready to conquer your goal.


If this training schedule seems a little aggressive, add another week or two up front and make the increase in miles a little more gradual.


If you donít like the idea of walking as often as Iím recommending, throw a little cross training in. Of course running provides an excellent alternative. Cycling, treadmills and stair climbers also provide great cross-training/cardio workouts as well. However, you donít want to rely solely on these exercises. Youíll still need to do a long walk at least once a week.


On the day of your hike, make sure you take enough food and water with you to keep your fuel and hydration levels up. See my article about staying properly hydrated and beating the heat while hiking in the summer.


A little preparation beforehand will go a long way on the day of your big hike. Your training will give you the confidence to persevere and youíll feel much better when you arrive back at the trailhead. You may even have a little energy left in the reserve tank to celebrate your accomplishment after you return.