If you learn anything at the University of Tennessee, you'll know every single word to Rocky Top. Some students are blissfully unaware that Rocky Top actually is a location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The hike to Rocky Top is not your average short walk to the stadium. The roundtrip distance from the Cades Cove Picnic Area is 13.9 miles.
During the nearly seven mile walk to the panoramic views, prepare to gain 3,665 feet in elevation. The Anthony Creek Trailhead starts at the far end of the Cades Cove Picnic Area. The Anthony Creek Trail doubles as a horse trail so prepare yourself for some nasty spots.
After walking 3.5 miles, the Anthony Creek Trail will dead-end at the Bote Mountain Trail. At this intersection, be sure to keep to the right to head to Rocky Top.
The next few miles of the trail are by far some of the most scenic sections of the Appalachian Trail. The trail turns into a green tunnel; depending on the season, you will be covered in rhododendron or fall leaves. The trail appears to slouch on the sides, showing the historical importance of the trail.
Cattle were once driven from the fields in Cades Cove to nearby Spence Field prior to the creation of the national park. After walking 5.1 sweaty miles, you will reach Spence Field and the Appalachian Trail.
At this intersection, turning right would lead you to several small, grassy meadows. The view is much better to the left towards Rocky Top. Walking towards the left will show the curves of the North Carolina side of the Smokies.
After an intense 1.2 miles on the Appalachian Trail, you will arrive at Rocky Top. Rocky Top is a part of Thunderhead Mountain which is comprised of three summits. Rocky Top is the first one you will arrive upon.
From Rocky Top on a clear day, you will be able to see Fontana Lake, Cades Cove, and possibly the other Rocky Top, Knoxville.
Football season is fast approaching, and I encourage you to bring water and lace up your hiking boots to go discover your own sense of ownership and pride with the university and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
When the leaves start to change, gather together a buddy or two on a Sunday after a football game and make the early morning trek. Wear ankle support because the dirt is far too rocky.
— Emily DeLanzo is a senior in environmental studies and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on twitter at @EmilyDeLanzo.