The Beginning of Something Special

Hello to everyone out there on The Trek. I’m Zach, longtime follower, first-time blogger here. In 2007 Andrew Skurka completed the 6,875 Mile Great Western Loop, and with respect to that massive accomplishment that changed Backpacking forever, I’m here to present to you the Great Southeastern Loop.

The Great Southeastern Loop is an idea I’ve had for a few years now, and it combines eight long-distance trails in the Southeastern United States.

The trail will cover 1,300 miles, five states, all five state high points/peaks, 13 state parks, six national forests, three national [ark service units (Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail), and one heck of an adventure!!

This trail will also hit the most iconic places in the Southeast, including; Looking Glass Rock, the Shining Rock Wilderness, Mt Pisgah, Craggy Gardens, Mt Mitchell, Linville Gorge, Stone Mountain State Park, Grayson Highlands and Mt Rodgers, Roan Mountain, Hot Springs, NC, Max Patch, Mt Sterling, Charlie’s Bunion, the Jumpoff, Mt LeConte, Clingmans Dome, Andrews Bald, Springer Mountain, Blood Mountain, Brasstown Bald, Wayah Bald, Cheoah Bald, Whitewater Falls, Sassafras Mountain, and Table Rock State Park.

With a lineup like that, it makes this trail hard to beat.

I’m a Californian who grew up in the PCT trail town of Lake Arrowhead and always had the idea of hiking home from Campo to Deep Creek. It never worked out, so when I moved to Greenville, SC and realized that the AT connects to the Bartram Trail, which connects to the Chattooga River Trail, which connects to the Foothills Trail that ends at Table Rock State Park here in South Carolina, 30 miles from home, I knew I had a new challenge to fulfill.

The idea got started and after 2 years of research and planning, I have the opportunity to fulfill that goal of hiking home. The plot twist is, I’m not going to do the 337 miles from Springer Mtn to Table Rock State Park, or even the 312 miles from Davenport Gap shelter at the northern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Home, I’m going to do a 1,300 mile loop across the Greatest parts of the Southeast.

The Great Southeastern Loop is born. 

Map, Great Southeastern Loop

The Southeast is blessed with the Appalachian Trail, the Benton Mackaye Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But, we are also lucky to have so many other long-distance trails in the region.

My hike will combine the Foothills Trail, the Palmetto Trail, the Art Loeb Trail, the Mountains to Sea Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Benton Mackaye Trail, the Bartram Trail, and the Chattooga River Trail to create one ultimate loop. With the help of just 55 miles of road walks, this 1300 mile loop is attainable with the right recipe of blood, sweat, heart, and tears. My goal is to complete it.

Why do this trail? 

This trail will combine the absolute best of the Southeast in one Loop. This is the best way to see everything the Southeastern region has to offer, while staying close to home. This trail is a section hiker’s dream because from where I am at in Greenville, SC, I’m no further than a three-hour drive from nearly every part of the trail. I’m sure there are millions of people in the region who can also start anywhere along this trail and complete this same experience!

The Foothills Trail

The fun gets started soon! I plan to hike the Foothills Trail this week to spend five days warming up and enjoying spring come alive out here in South Carolina and North Carolina. I want to knock this section out now, rather than mid-July during the heat of the summer.

From there, I will take the month of May to finish preparations, and then will make a solid push to complete the Great Southeastern Loop Trail in one swoop.

For now, I will take you on the adventure that is the Foothills Trail in South Carolina and North Carolina.

I haven’t been out since January 2nd, when I hiked the Rainbow Falls Trail up to Mt. LeConte, spent two nights at the shelter there in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and caught one epic snowstorm! It’s time to get those Trail Legs going again!

Mount LeConte Snow

See you on the trail! 

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Comments 4

  • Ruth Morley : Apr 10th

    Wonderful idea, and very creative on your part! I look forward to following your adventure.

    • Zach : Apr 15th

      Thanks Ruth! It’s been a work in progress and I am happy for the opportunity to share the adventure with you and all the readers out there on TheTrek!

      I love this opportunity to share my trail with everyone here!

  • John Wilson : Apr 10th

    This “loop” is hard to imagine without a provided map to illustrate it. Perhaps you have a website that details your route? If not, could you provide a map in a subsequent post, please.

    • Zach : Apr 15th

      Hey John,

      It definitely is a tough Trail to imagine! I updated my post to include a map of the trail I intend to conquer!

      It’s been a snowball effect over the past two years from realizing so many trails here in the Southeast connect seamlessly, to actually putting a Route together and realizing that this endeavor is possible.


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