You may have heard about (or maybe even run into) the llamas that hoof it up the Trillium Gap Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to supply the LeConte Lodge. As it happens, that hardworking four-legged crew isn’t the only local representative of those endearing South American livestock: Another herd resides at Smoky Mountain Llama Treks in Cosby, Tennessee, tucked away in the foothills not far from the national park, and offers the unique experience of actually hiking with the animals.
Owned by Steve and Johnna Garrett, the company runs guided llama treks all year round in the foothills of the Great Smokies on a number of different trails. Now, you aren’t riding the llamas, mind you: Rather, you hike yourself and lead your wooly compadre by a rope.
It’s a thoroughly unique way to experience these magical mountains and their rich forests. Walking with a llama along forest paths, it turns out, happens to be a deeply relaxing—and pretty much all-around charming—experience.
The hikes that Smoky Mountain Llama Treks leads are all easy to moderate, ranging from the roughly hourlong amble on the Padget Mill Trail (which kicks off from the company’s farm property) to slightly more challenging, two-mile explorations of the Moonshine and Trident trails. The former shows off a historical moonshine still, while the Trident Trail—technically the toughest of the hikes, though still only of moderate difficulty—delivers fantastic views of the Great Smokies.
Group size for these hikes is generally about 10 people (and 10 llamas!). The company typically combines multiple smaller groups and lumps same-day reservations.
The pace is definitely on the chill side, with the llamas periodically pausing to browse and graze, and the whole hiking group taking frequent rest and snack breaks. If you happen to drop your rope, by the way, don’t worry: These well-trained, well-behaved llamas aren’t going to make a break for it. (And if somebody in your party doesn’t want to lead a llama, for whatever reason, it’s not required. Keep in mind, though, that Smoky Mountain Llama Treks charges its rates per person, not per llama.)
Along with the hikes, the company offers a petting-zoo sort of experience at its property via the hourlong Llama Farm Visit, with ample opportunities to meet and feed the friendly critters. You can also give your llama snacks on your hike; they’re partial to graham crackers, oatmeal cookies, and bananas.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure on your next visit to the Great Smoky Mountains and one that’s suitable for young and old alike, why not consider a mosey with a llama?
Trek Ticket Prices
Padget Mil Trek
Adult (ages 13+): $65
Children (ages 5-12): $45
Llama Farm Visit
Adult (ages 17+): 20
Children (ages 4-16): $14
Trident & Moonshine Trails
Per Person (ages 5+): $90
-Give yourself plenty of time to reach the Smoky Mountain Llama Treks property: It’s really quite hidden away in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. (The drive itself is part of the attraction, though, given the very lovely backroads scenery.) Upon making your reservation, you’ll be emailed detailed instructions for reaching the farm or another trailhead.
-If you’re worried about getting (ahem) spit on, rest assured these llamas don’t typically direct their loogies at people: That sort of thing is more of a llama-to-llama deal. These very well-trained animals don’t bite or kick at people, either (though that said, it’s best to walk where the llama can see you, as they do sometimes kick if startled).