Updated: Sep 17, 2020
It has been more than 4 months since COVID-19 hit the world. And as international destinations now seem impossible to visit until the pandemic lasts, we wanted to bring you some of the destinations that will provide a sense of relaxation and relief from the anxiety of civilization. And here’s an added bonus, it’s an affordable road trip if you’re in the Midwest!
Before you go, be sure to check the CDC's recommendations for visiting parks to help reduce the risk of exposure. Be responsible and keep a safe distance from others, even if you're out in the fresh air!
The mountain range of The Great Smoky Mountains is known to be the country’s greatest escape into the nature and is also the most visited one in the entire nation. You can wander through the tranquil wooded paths and settle into cozy cabins, far away from crowded cities and risks of COVID.
Our Top 4 Tips
on what to pack for The Great Smoky Mountains
There are several things and beautifying factors of the Great Smoky Mountains which will allow you to forget all the tensions and stresses that these times of the pandemic. We want to make sure you pack all the essentials necessary for enjoying one of the best days at Smoky Mountains:
Tip #1: Trek around the scenic hills with sturdy hiking boots
The best way to experience the Smoky Mountains is to do what the original settlers and explorers did: hit the trails. From the original Appalachian Trail to breathtaking wildflower walks, there are 150 Smoky Mountain trails covering 800 miles of pristine backcountry.
If you're going out for a hike, a good pair of hiking boots is a must. To make the most out of your adventures, pack a pair of supportive waterproof and breathable boots. We love Forsake's hiking shoes because of their environmental initiative "For Goodness Sake", making them Climate Neutral Certified, while using leather certified by the Leather Working Group, which promotes sustainable and appropriate business practices within the leather industry. This sturdy pair will allow you to navigate both wet trails beside waterfalls and dry trails up mountainsides with ease and enable you to explore farther.
Tip #2: Set your sights on the beauty with sunglasses made from recycled plastic
When you venture into one of the world’s few International Biosphere Reserves, black bears and wildflower blooms are only the beginning what the incredible things you can see. Bring your binoculars, enjoy the show, but don’t forget to pack sunglasses will protect your eyes from being burned and polarized lens will help you see views more clearly. We love Sunski's lightweight eco-friendly sunglasses made from recycled plastic. They're available in all kinds of great styles and for a great price point.
Tip #3: Hydrate with an eco-friendly reusable water bottles
Every trip to the Smokies begins with a drive on the Newfound Gap Road, so pack a picnic and combat the effects of the summer heat by bringing along a reusable water bottle.
Our favorite is the collapsable BPA-free and non-toxic bottle from Que. The collapsibility makes it lightweight and easy to stash away after use. Not to mention, 10% of Que proceeds are donated to the Rainforest Trust. Every bottle purchased will help acquire and protect 1 acre of land in the Peruvian Amazon forest.
Tip #4: Layer up
Be sure to pack light layers for daytime and others that will keep you warm in the evenings for when the sun sets and cooler air moves in. You will be surprised at how quickly temperatures drop as the sun sets. Here are our top 5 items to pack for transitioning from day to night.
Item 1: Hiking Pants
These lightweight joggers from Splice Clothing, a woman owned small business here in the USA. All of their clothing are staple travel pieces, but these particular pants are incredibly soft and perfect for an outdoorsy road trip. Want to know the best part? They're reversible! One side has zippered side seam pockets to keep valuables safe and secure.
Item 2: Biker Shorts
Biking shorts are coming into style for everyday athleisure wear. If you want to layer up and be prepared for hot to cold weather, throw on a pair of these under your joggers. We love MPG Sport because they use recycled polyester and ethical environmental & social practices as a whole.
Item 3: Sweatproof shirt
Splice Clothing has even more goodies that are perfect for travel and hiking trips. Check out this staple black tee, reversible for a v-neck style or crew neck style, with a hidden side seam zipper pocket for valuables, and wrinkle resistant fabric that dries quickly. Any lightweight tee is perfect for layering under rain jackets or sweatshirts for the cool evening temperatures of the Great Smokys.
Item 4: Rain Jacket
In the midwest, you can never be too sure about the weather. Sometimes you'll get pop up thunderstorms, or sometimes the weather channels are completely inaccurate. Its always a great idea to pack a waterproof jacket as an extra layer of warmth, but mostly to stay dry if you're out in the middle of a trail with no shelter in sight. Our pick is the recycled polyester Rain Shell from United By Blue. Not only does this brand source their products responsibly from Vietnam, but for every product purchased, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways.
Item 5: Fleece or Vest
The last must have items on our Great Smoky Mountains packing list is the final layer; a vest or fleece. These items aren't too bulky, and paired with a tee or flannel underneath, these warmer layers will help you transition into evening bonfires and sunset hikes. United by Blue and MPG Sport strike again with some of our favorite hiking apparel. If you're venturing out into nature, why not pay tribute to the beauty of our environment by supporting brands with a sustainable mission?
COVID-19 may be preventing us from traveling to exotic locations all around the world, but this doesn't mean we can't take the time to explore the gorgeous natural surroundings right around the corner. Pack up these essentials, hop in the car, and go for a ride into the Great Smoky Mountains for a little peace and seclusion.