Branch Out with Great Smoky Mountains Association
Member activities come in three flavors:
- Branch Out programs focus on historical, cultural and scientific exploration led by experts in their fields. These experiences are mostly lower impact.
- Hiking 101 puts your boots on the ground with unique destinations in mind.
- Backpacking adventures take you to the 'Back of Beyond' for overnight camping in a group setting.
All three categories are designed to enhance our members' knowledge and appreciation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Birds of prey, history of our park founders and the importance of salamanders are just a few of the many topics you'll explore when you Branch Out with us.
This year's Hiking 101 program takes as its inspiration our park's cultural history. Churches and cemeteries in GSMNP are sacred spaces. Indeed, it could be said that all of the land within the park is sacred space because of those who lived, died and remain in unmarked or lost graves, in family burial plots and in community or church cemeteries. And while some cemeteries can be easily found a few feet off most trails, don't be fooled into thinking these will be easy outings. Some of these trips will require many hours to cover lots of miles.
We are working again with Wildland Trekking and Just Get Outdoors to provide our members backcountry immersion experiences. Shorter trips are designed for those who are new to backpacking, in the hopes that they’ll develop the confidence they need to one day plan their own backcountry experience. Longer trips open the park’s harder-to-reach places to more eyes. In addition to providing a safe, enjoyable experience, our guides will share their knowledge of park history, as well as its flora and fauna.
All backpacking trips are limited to 8 participants, including the guide. This small size provides for individual attention and lessens the impact on park resources. Backcountry reservation fees of $4 per night, per person are also included.
NEW THIS YEAR - Gourmet breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options will be provided on both Wildland Trekking tours as part of your registration fee. We'll take the worry out of planning your own meals and make sure all your nutritional needs are met for a successful trip.
How to Register
Online - Each program includes a link to an online registration form
By Phone - 865.436.7318, then enter extension 349, 222 or 325
Unless otherwise indicated, most programs cost $35 each, which includes an annual Buckeye membership. Current members earn a $15 discount. Hemlock members earn free registration for most events, excluding backpacking trips.
GSMA's goal with program fees is to secure the services of some of the most knowledgeable leaders in the area, ensuring members are more than satisfied with their experience.
Payment is required in advance and by credit card only.
In most cases, refunds are not available; instead; your payment will be considered a tax-deductible donation to GSMA's Legacy Fund if you are unable to attend. Or, you can request a promo code to use for an upcoming event.