At Tremont Institute, we know a thing or two about adventuring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a crucial ingredient to any successful adventure is food.
Tremont faculty and staff share their favorite food and snacks for a variety of Smoky Mountain outings, whether the adventure is hiking in the backcountry, enjoying a family picnic, or a celebrating with a post-hike treat! Once you review our list, read the stories behind these favorite foods below.
Emily Stein, Youth Programs Coordinator
I love both cooking and eating, and trail food gives me a fun way to try creating new and tasty treats. So far, fried Parmesan grit cakes with dried tomatoes is my favorite campsite meal (easy to carry, cook, and eat!). But I’m also kind of lazy and love my old standbys, so there’s one snack that I take with me every time I’m on a big hike or backpacking trip: a bag of chocolate chips, a can of peanuts, and a box of raisins mixed together in a bag. I can eat that stuff for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack—and I have! Gorp, I will always love you.
Erin Canter, Manager of Science Literacy and Research
I often eat better on the trail than I do at home! Planning ahead gives me a chance to make a full meal instead of just waiting to see what I find when I get hungry. Lately for hikes I’ve been making marinated tempeh sandwiches with sautéed kale and cashew cheese. I’ll add another Tupperware with kettle chips and throw in some mandarin oranges or an apple. And of course, always lots of water!
Caleb Carlton, Development Manager
Being out on a long hike has an interesting way of making you crave foods that you can’t access, like a juicy burger or a hot slice of pizza. This is especially true on a multi-day backpacking trip! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I have a tradition of keeping a Snickers bar with me during long hikes or backpacking trips. I try to save it for a culminating moment of the journey, like reaching the summit of a mountain. It’s something to look forward to when the trail gets tough, and it tastes so much better than a candy bar you might eat in the office or car.
Luke Schutzman, Teacher Naturalist
Snacks: For me, Chewy Sprees are the perfect sugary snack. Each one is a good-sized bite and they don’t melt easily in a backpack. I almost always have some of these in my pack on hikes or long drives in the park.
Trail mix for me is walnuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate. All of these foods hit the spot when you’re out on the trail, and dark chocolate doesn’t melt nearly as easily as milk chocolate. It also just tastes better in my personal opinion.
Meal: Backpacker Ramen. Mix together a pack of spicy ramen with a pouch of tuna and you have a nice heaping bowl of warm soup for the evening. Other things I like to add include bell pepper, onion, Sriracha, scallions, broccoli, chicken, fried egg, carrot, and Cheez-It crackers. At its simplest, this is a great low budget backpacking meal, but with a cooler you can add all sorts of things to make a great soup with quite a variety of flavors and textures. Want to stretch it further? Add another pack of ramen or a can of chicken noodle soup. Sometimes I substitute instant mashed potatoes for ramen. I call that Backcountry Shepherd’s Pie. Yes, you heard me right: mashed potatoes and tuna!
Jeremy Lloyd, Manager of Field Programs and Collegiate Studies
Earl Grey Tea and Welsh cakes are my all-time favorite trail snacks when hiking in winter. It’s a habit I acquired in Wales, naturally, from Kate Bassett-Jones. I became friends with Kate during the year she worked at Tremont as a Teacher-Naturalist. When my wife and I visited Kate and her husband in Pembrokeshire, Kate sent us off on a “walk” on the Welsh coast with the cakes and a thermos filled with hot tea. That winter I began taking the treats on hikes back in the Smokies. Now if I can only find a reliable source for Welsh cakes!
Bridget Loland, Office Manager
We have a family tradition of going on picnics, and hands-down our favorite meal has always been home-cooked country-fried chicken and corn on the cob. It’s a great southern meal and our kids still love it today. In fact, our first Christmas living in the Smokies (a year ago), the kids were here and we had a picnic on Christmas Day at Metcalf Bottoms…and yes, we had chicken!
Joey Terlizzi, Teacher Naturalist
My favorite food to bring with me on the trail is just a block of cheese. You don’t even need a knife or anything; just bite it right off the block. Sure, fellow hikers might look at you weird, but it’ll be easy to overlook with a mouth full of muenster.
Elizabeth Davis, Field Programs Specialist
Bread, cheese, apples, and chocolate. The four food groups of backpacking. Need I say more?
Scott Maas, Teacher Naturalist
Best snacks for a day hike in the park: a block of cheese (usually a Wisconsin cheddar), Cheez-Its, and a Snickers bar. Make sure to take frequent snack breaks on your hike., but save that Snickers bar for when you make it to the destination. Then, when you make it back from your hike, go get some French fries or ice cream from Burger Master.
Mary Kait Brown, Teacher Naturalist
My favorite snack on the trail has got to be cheese! I love all forms of cheese, from string to cubes to little shredded guys. Nothing like the classic ol’ cheese and cracker snack.