Springtime in the Smokies

As the mountains begin to turn shades of green, and wildlife emerges from its winter slumber, the rebirth of springtime proves to be one of the best times to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

The Great Smoky Mountains boasts over 1,500 flowering plants, as well as 100 species of tree spread throughout five different forest types including Eastern Hemlock, Mountain Ash, and various Maple trees. 

The intense diversity here at this Park is what makes spring the perfect time for Backcountry Journeys to make a visit for a landscape and wildlife photography trip. Won’t you join us? 

Excellent photography opportunities such as misty sunrises from grassy balds overlooking a sea of mountains are the norm on this trip. But it’s certainly not a tour for just the wide-angle lenses.

We’ll be photographing ethereal waterfalls under budding canopies, as well as abundant wildlife such as elk, Black bears, and a wealth of birds and even amphibians.

And macro photography is second to none here with ample opportunities to capture images of snail, salamander, moss-covered trees, and other things like clear water droplets on newly fallen maple leaves.

What’s In Store for Me?

What might this tour have in store for you? The following is from last year’s BCJ Trip Report from BCJ guide, Russell Graves:

“Day three finds us where Day two left off: atop Clingman’s Dome. The broad parking area just below the 6,600-foot peak ensures a wide panoramic view of the countryside. From here we can watch the sun come up in the east and provide a different view of the mountains than what we’d witnessed the evening before. The morning was cold and a bit blustery but we all braved the weather in favor of the spectacular views the mountaintop affords.

Soon we are headed down the hill, back across Newfound Gap, and back into North Carolina for a late breakfast in Cherokee. Along the way, however, we run into a band of elk cows, bellies taught due to an impending calving season. They grazed on lush grass in front of us and fed for a bit until sauntering into the woods. 

From there, we drive over to the historic Mingus Mill – a 19th-century grist mill that uses turbine technology to turn the millstones against one another to finely grind corn. Water from a nearby creek flows through a wooden sluice and slides down the long flume to the mill. The entire contraction is rustically beautiful and makes for an interesting photo study.

After breakfast, we head over to a quiet corner of the park. The Cataloochee Valley is a broad and beautiful dale that’s surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks and was once one of the most vibrant settlements in the Smokies before the national park’s formation. The road is circuitous as we wind our way through the hills to the valley’s entrance.

Once back inside the park, we stop to photograph old barns and churches that sit streamside in this picturesque valley. We explore each building and see firsthand the amount of craftsmanship it took to build these structures that still solidly stand even after more than a century.

A quick supper at a local BBQ spot and we’re back on the road for a sunrise shoot. I’ve got an overlook spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway in mind. It takes a few minutes for us to drive there from Cherokee but our patience is rewarded. A fire of unknown origin leaves a patina of haze lingering in the valley while a smattering of clouds from an approaching rain even provides some drama to the sky. We spread out along the turnout and photograph until the light won’t allow it anymore.” -Russell Graves 

Space Remains

Space is still available on dates for spring 2022. So, find yourself at America’s most visited national park with Backcountry Journeys on this Lodge-Based Photography tour. Our handcrafted itineraries let you photograph the best Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer while on this all-inclusive photography tour. Write your own story, and tell it through the images you take home.

Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains
April 11th to April 16th, 2022 – 1 Spot Remains
April 17th to April 22nd, 2022 – 3 Spots Remain (Hiker)

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Kenton Krueger








Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers, and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.



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