A once-popular map showcasing the best hiking trails of the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains is back in print with a fresh update after 25 years.
The new version of “100 Favorite Trails of the Smokies and the Carolina Blue Ridge” is a collaboration by the Great Smoky Mountains Association and Carolina Mountain Club.
Originally created in 1966 by Bernard Elias of Asheville, the map was an immediate hit among avid hikers. Upon his death in 2010, Elias — who was active in the local Sierra Club chapter, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Carolina Mountain Club — proclaimed the map to be the greatest accomplishment of his life.
“Bernard was one of the great environmentalists of WNC and the sole person responsible for maintaining the map,” said Steve Kemp, former interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association. “He would hike 10 to 12 trails a year and update the information using a special shorthand he had created.”
Elias updated the “100 Favorite Trails” map 13 times until its last printing in 1993 when his age prevented him from completing many of the map’s trails.
After that, the map went out of print and remained largely forgotten until Kemp stumbled upon a copy in a Little Switzerland bookstore. With a bit of research, Kemp realized how highly sought-after the map was, with copies selling for up to $300 online.
Kemp reached out to the Carolina Mountain Club about printing a long-overdue update. Soon Carolina Mountain Club council member Steven Pierce got involved.
“I was asked to coordinate with our hike leaders and members to review the hikes selected, hike the trails, use the Carolina Mountain Club database to verify driving directions, and write and review the trail descriptions,” he said. “We also updated all the GPS tracks for the map. In all, more than 35 CMC hike leaders and members participated in the project.”
While previous versions of the map included trails more geared toward backpackers, the updated edition focuses on day hikes of varying lengths in the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The “100 Favorite Trails” map is best suited for selecting and keeping track of trails hiked in the area, and its creators recommend that, when setting out on a trail, people carry a more detailed map focused on that particular area.
Printed in full color on waterproof paper, “The 100 Favorite Trails of the Smokies and the Carolina Blue Ridge” contains numbered trail locations, trail lengths, and elevation gains, as well as detailed hike directions. When folded, it measures 4-by-8 inches. The newly updated map and guide is available for $12.95 in the park’s visitor center bookstores and at GSMA’s online store, smokiesinformation.org.