Hike, backpack and learn to track black bears in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain Field School

smoky mountains hiking
Acquiring a catalog-full of outdoor skills in the Great Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain Field School is a non-credit branch of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville that offers non-credit, hands-on classes to the public on almost anything imaginable related to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: flora, fauna, Smoky Mountains hiking, Smoky Mountains backpacking, Smoky Mountains wilderness orienteering, tracking, early settler mountain cooking, even beginner’s old-time banjo! If you can relate it to the Great Smoky Mountains somehow, there’s a class for it at the Smoky Mountain Field School. Discover anything you ever wanted to know about this popular park that straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina state line.

Smoky Mountains Wilderness Orienteering

Learn the basics of using a map and a compass to navigate from one place to another as a part of Smoky Mountains hiking as well hiking in other locations. Classroom and field experience impart the fundamental skills of both competitive and wilderness orienteering. The advanced course of Smoky Mountains wilderness Orienteering teaches using a map and compass to travel in remote wilderness areas. Map reading and how to use an orienteering compass, declination, route projection and improvisation.

Animal Tracking and Nature Observation

Learn how to observe wildlife without actually seeing the animals. Observe where animals have been, what they were doing when they were there and when they might return. Learning tracking skills opens up an entirely new dimension of nature observation.


Learn basic backpacking skills or gain confidence in those you already have. Learn how to get safe drinking water, how to store food and how to set up a camp. Gain confidence in your ability to backpack on your own and provide for all your needs in the backcountry.

Birding in the Smokies

What are the best binoculars? What are the best field guides? What are the best bird song CDs? These are some of the questions answered in Birding in the Smokies during a day of field observation of common birdlife in the Smoky Mountains.

Fly Casting and Fly Fishing in Smoky Mountain Rivers

Acquire the basics of fly fishing equipment, fly casting techniques and fly identification. Learn to read streams and get the most out of each cast. Practice in an open field and in actual river conditions. Bring your own equipment if you have it, or Smoky Mountain Field School will provide it if you don’t.

Cades Cove Exploration

This is a 7.5-mile loop hike that takes you on a geologic walk through Cades Cove. Cross the Great Smoky Fault. Learn about the geologic activity that formed the Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove. Walk through different types of forests that are characteristic of the Smokies.

High-Elevation Smoky Mountains Hiking

This is an 8.8-mile hike in high elevations in the Smokies. Learn about the geology of the park and how it resulted in the park you see today. Understand how the types of rocks you will see reveal the geologic history of the region.

Bears of the Smokies

Learn how to avoid Smoky Mountains black bears and what to do if you don’t. The day includes class time and a short field hike to find possible den sites and learn what bear food options are. Learn to identify bear tracks, bear trails, bear scat, and other signs that most people never notice.

Appalachian Trail Hike: Clingmans Dome to Siler Bald

Hike 9.6 miles round trip along the backbone of the Smokies visiting two shelters and taking in fine views along the way. Learn about the history and upkeep of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail that extends from Georgia to Maine, including 70 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Order a Smoky Mountain Field School Catalog

Order a catalog from the Smoky Mountain Field School to have a complete listing of courses along with scheduled dates and costs.

Read more about Smoky Mountain Field School.

Brown's Guide
About Brown's Guide 181 Articles
We offer our expertise and knowledge to help you navigate the state of Georgia. When it comes to activities, natural areas, outfitters, and guides, we've been around for over 30 years providing the best experience for your next adventure.

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