How to Backcountry Camp – Episode 81 Great Smoky Mountains in Autumn

We do not have to focus on the once a year extravagant vacation to create quality fun time together. We work for success in life, but our leisure time usually brings us the most happiness. The cost for a fantastic getaway can be very inexpensive. Try an adventure of hiking, exploring and backcountry camping.

Great Smoky Mountains - Sunrise 3

Our family lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is less than four hours away. We go to this magnificent wilderness several times a year to get away from the stress of home. There are many three day weekends throughout the year where we can travel by car and enjoy hanging out together. Sometimes, when we really need a break, we will travel there on a normal two day weekend.

Great Smoky Mountains - Hiking Deep into the Woods 3

The entertainment doesn’t start when we leave, but many weeks before. Planning the long hikes and strategic camp sites are enjoyable. The cost for backcountry camping in the Smokies is only $4 per person per night. Entrance into the park is free. We shop at our local grocery stores for enough food and beverages for the extended weekend.

Great Smoky Mountains - Hiking Deep into the Woods 2

What you need to backcountry camp is mostly a sense of adventure and a pair of boots. Other things that you need are one time purchases like tents, backpacks and a few smaller items (tiny headlamps, silverware, cooking containers, knives, bungee cords, hand towels, etc.). Purchasing a Lifestraw is a smart investment. You can use this tool to drink out of most streams and allows you to carry less weight on your backpack.

Great Smoky Mountains - Creek

Obviously, hiking with a heavy backpack is not an easy endeavor. I (Dad/Bill) usually carry extra stuff so my wife’s pack is lighter. We make sure that our two teenage sons think about what they need before they travel. Therefore, while we shop for groceries at home, they can get what they want. When we are out in the wilderness, there is nothing that we can purchase. This teaches our children to be prepared and responsible.

Great Smoky Mountains - Winston Hiking

Our sons Luke, now 17-years-old, and Winston, 16-years-old, enjoy canned corn, beef jerky, salami chunks, Wheat Thins, Triscuits and granola bars. We usually pack more than we need because once we are deep in the wilderness there are no amenities except for what we carried. Moreover, why be grouchy and unhappy when being prepared can create a luxurious backcountry camping experience.

Great Smoky Mountains - Smokin'


Desert is easy and very competitive. Marshmallow cooking over the camp fire has become an art form. Finding the perfect stick and carving a tip is the first step. Creating a crispy golden brown outside while melting the inside of the marshmallow is the perfect treat. My wife of over 18 years, Alisa, has become a professional marshmallow master chef. No chocolate or graham crackers are needed. Chocolate melts in the warmer months of Spring and Summer. Therefore, a big bag of marshmallows are a camping necessity.

Great Smoky Mountains - Marshmallow Time

The short road trip to the mountains can be very entertaining as well. Playing games together and not allowing any cell phones or video games should be a family rule. The purpose of the trip is to disconnect from technology and better connect as a family. It is during these trips when we have relaxed time to just talk and catch up with one another. Even during the long hikes, mostly on the way back from the camp site, is when some of our best conversations occur.

Great Smoky Mountains - Hiking Deep into the Woods 1

Exploring while we hike is financially free, but extremely rewarding. Hiking on a set trail (already created by our wonderful National Park System) while searching for wildlife and anything unusual is therapeutic to the mind. Not only is it healthy to be excising, but the wilderness provides endorphins to our brain. The excitement of spotting a bear, frog or lizard in it’s natural habitat is thrilling.

Great Smoky Mountains - Toad

The vista mountain views are breathtaking. The adventure of getting to our campsite is gratifying. We appreciate the victory of making it to our reserved camp site. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination. We sometimes forget to enjoy all of the moments. Even the conflicts we combat we try to relish. Overcoming the difficult obstacles usually become the most memorable memories.

Great Smoky Mountains - Crossing the Creek

A backcountry camping adventure should be an event that every family should try and enjoy. Doing it for the first time may be challenging, but that is part of being a family. Everyone should help and be delegated a task. This is what creates a family bond. Spending quality time together doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, it just needs to cost a lot of time. Time is precious and everyday our children get older. Take the time now and Get into the WILDLIFE.