The Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) is a 70+ mile traverse of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the Appalachian Trail, starting at Fontana Dam and going to Davenport Gap. The total elevation gain is 18,660', 12,800' in first 40 miles and 5860' in last 30 miles. On course aid and bail-out is only possible at 40 miles at Newfound Gap Road, and maybe not even there. All food and gear must be carried and water must be pulled from streams. The trail is technical, and there are a lot of steep climbs and descents all on singletrack. Several people have completed the SCAR under 24 hours, including Scott Brockmeier and Matt Kirk, David Horton, and Charlie Roberts (19h45m, July 26, 2008). Charlie had also run the route in 2004 in a time of 30+ hours, and in his report refers to "...shallow promises to each other that we would never make another attempt at this brutal run." On July 26, 2008, Adam Hill ran the route in 17h28m, which I thought was the FKT until I got the following email from former Knoxvillian John Cobb:
This section has been run by a number of runners from Knoxville Tennessee over the years, usually in the direction of Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. The first I know of was by Vicki Johnson who did the run as a training run for the Western States in a time of 18h50m. This was either in 1985 or 86 [actually, 1988, as documented in this article], both years when Vicki won the Master's division at Western States. Then another guy [John Cobb] ran it in 18h10m in 1995, and then what should be the FKT was in 1996 by Knoxvillian Jon Lawler who completed the run in 17h02m. At least 6 others I know of have done the run in about 24 hours. -- John Cobb, 3/22/2009
Jon Lawler remembers it slightly differently, putting his FKT run in 1998 ("I think", he says), and "I think my time was right under 17 hours" (Lawler email to Bakwin, 4/13/2009). With this information, it appears that Lawler held the FKT for the SCAR at something close to 17 hours.
More recently, Bobby Adams ran the SCAR in 16h53m on May 16, 2009, a new FKT. Adams started at Davenport Gap with Bobby Holcombe, Will Jorgensen, Jeff Woody, John Cobb and Jim Cobb, at 4:45 a.m., and had support of several people along the way. His report is on the Knoxville Track Club website.
Will Harlan ran the SCAR in 16h53m on June 25, 2009, Matching Adams' time to the minute. He was supported by a friend during the run. Harlan did his run to bring awareness to "the devastating and deadly effects of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia." See ilovemountains.org for more information on that. Harlan's report is available on his blog and on the Ashville Citizen-Times online site. Harlan had attempted the SCAR 6 years prior, this time to promote clean air but, ironically, high ozone levels triggered an asthma attack.
Jon Lawler reports retaking the SCAR FKT on May 15, 2010, with a time of 15h57m01s. His brief report is as follows: "I began the run at 2:00 a.m. and finished at 5:57 p.m. Despite one encounter with a stubborn black bear that blocked my progress for about five minutes (I would have given him longer if he needed it), the run was challenging but uneventful."
New supported and unsupported FKTs were set on May 19, 2011, by David Worth and Will Harlan, respectively. Worth's report with photos and splits is here. Harlan started at Davenport Gap, and Worth ran the opposite direction, and the two encountered each other near Newfound Gap. Worth started his run with Brian Williams, who completed the route in 16h45m. Harlan's heart-felt report is here.
Just a few miles away, mountains as beautiful as these were being dynamited and dumped, poisoning the communities that live near these operations, just to get at the last remaining seams of coal. My 72-mile run would probably do nothing to stop more mountains from being beheaded and more people from dying. I never felt so small. And at the same time, in the shadows of ancient mountains, I never felt more inspired to keep fighting. -- Will Harlan
Billy Simpson did the (probably) first ever double SCAR Sept. 22-26, 2014. Simpson's total time was 3d7h25m, taking about 36h for the first "lap" of the route. He reported briefly as follows:
"Totally unsupported fast pack. Carried everything from the start, no drops. Got water from springs along the trail. Started at Fantana Dam entrance to GSMNP at 5:30am on Monday the 22nd of Sept. and hiked to Newfound Gap at 40.3 miles, arriving at 10pm. Slept in alcove by bathrooms. Began hiking at 5:45am Tuesday and hit the turn at Davenport Gap at 5:30pm, made the turn and hiked back to Cosby Knob shelter arriving at 8:30 for a total of 39.1 for the day. Began hiking Wednesday at 5:30am feeling fresh and strong. Hit the road crossing at Newfound Gap at 2:30pm, Clingman's Dome at 5:15 hiking strong and feeling great. At that point I made the decision to hike thru the night to the finish and try to go under 3 days. After hiking for approx 20 minutes after nightfall my brand new batteries began to die only about 1/3 into their expected life for the light. Bad batteries? My brain fart? Who knows? So I switched to the dimmest setting and hiked on to Derrick Knob shelter where I put in my spare batteries. They were not new batteries. I never expected to need them. I decided to keep hiking on dim setting until they died and just stop there and wait for daylight. My lamp quickly faded and I found myself on Rocky Top with too little light to continue for a total of 46.4 miles for the day at 10:45pm. I threw my pad and sleeping bag under a rhododendron thicket and rested until first light. Began hiking again at about 6:45am and was treated to the most spectacular sunrise of the trip. (must be why my batteries died, right!) Hiked in the remaining 17.2 and arrived back at Fontana at 12:45pm."
Scott Simcox reports setting a new FKT for the unsupported double SCAR of 2d17h49m, June 8-10, 2017.
This is a heads up for anyone tracking this FKT: I'll be attempting to set a new supported FKT on 10/20/2018! I'll be starting from the South Side of Fontana Dam (as noted by several of the most recent attempts as the S->N starting point) and challenging the 14:50:22 set by David in 2011. Starting time: 5AM. I'm fairly optimistic based on a "practice" run of the first 40 miles (Fontana to Newfound) a few weeks ago which I ran in 8hrs, with a moderate effort. That puts me about 35-40 minutes ahead of David's split that he shared on the old FKT site. Hopefully I'll be submitting a new FKT in 9 days!
Looks like it's going to be great weather for a fun run! Will be starting this Saturday, 10/13/18 between 4 and 5 am taking off from Davenport. Hoping to maybe possibly take on the current female supported record. Will be traveling southbound with a couple of friends and picking a few more up for the second chunk at Newfound.
Hope to have it all captured on strava also!
Admin note: Looks like this person completed the route but failed to match the female FKT, with a time of 23+ hours. Good effort!
It was a great day to be on the trail! Maybe next time! Great job to Alicia on the FKT, it's one tough run!
I want to submit my time to see if it is sufficient to claim the female unsupported FKT. I did, however, have some GPS issues, so it may not be possible. My GPS stopped tracking at 9:43 pm, shortly before I reached the park boundary at Fontana Dam. I know my official start time was 11:03 pm Sat. Dec 1 at Davenport Gap (the GPS recorded this) and I can work with phone data to figure out that I got into my car in the overflow lot at Fontana Dam at approximately 10:14 pm Sun. Dec. 2. I reached the park boundary sometime in between 9:43 and 10:14, but I was (foolishly, in retrospect) relying on my GPS to record that time, so I don't have an exact minute. If I go with 10:14, when I arrived at my car, my time would be 23:11:00.
Heads up for anyone currently tracking this FKT. A large group of us are going for a fun run of the SCAR on May 25th, 2019. We're not looking to set any records, but I will be attempting a back-to-back of the whole thing. We'll be setting out from Fontana Dam at 4:00am on Saturday morning. I'll update this thread with my time afterwards, so keep a lookout on this post in the next week or so. Wish us luck!
Hey! I’ll be heading out with the intent of breaking the current record on Saturday, May 25th. I’ll be starting at 5 A.M. from Fontana dam! All are welcome to spectate or participate!!
Tim Hill and I will be starting from Fontana around midnight tonight. After breaking my big toe in a few places (on a run, of course-lol!) 4 days prior to our last planned date, I'm coming off a couple of weeks without running and will be very happy and thankful if I'm able to get this run accomplished! Still, in case the day goes well, posting here of our intent to run. I know it will be quite an adventure, and am so excited- I've wanted to do this for years!
Hi all! I'll be attempting to set a new unsupported FKT on 06/04/2020! I'll be starting from the South Side of Fontana Dam and challenging the 15h 31m 37s set by John Kelly. Planning to start at 3:30AM.
Actually planning to start at 5AM
🏔 Double SCAR Fastest Known Time 🏔
Starting on Thursday morning June 4th I will be attempting to set a new double SCAR FKT. I will be starting at the south end of Fontana Dam going S>N and then return, covering the route.
I will be doing this unsupported carrying everything from the start. I will be looking to improve on the current record of 65 hrs 49 min.
I will be recording the route via my Suunto 9 and will then be public on Strava and posted on FKT site.
Bailed on the double after a single. To many thunderstorms and wet feet along with I carried way to much food, making for a high school kids backpack feel. Will go again....
Update on to reflect proper route and change in timing: due to weather forecast I'll be attempting to set a new unsupported FKT on Wednesday 06/03/2020 (rather than Thursday). I'll be starting from DAVENPORT GAP and challenging the 15h 31m 37s set by John Kelly. Planning to start at 5:00AM.
Came up well short at ~16:30 (watch battery died a couple hundred yards from the finish). Gorgeous day and overall awesome experience aside from last 2.5 hrs from hell. Middle third of the trail had a good number of folks, the first third and last third I only saw a handful of groups. Tons of bear activity on the west side- saw two and heard two others, as well as two different pairs of wild boars! Whippoorwill & owl on sendoff brigade at Davenport and a whippoorwill calling me in to the finish at Fontana. Family & a couple fireflies waiting at the dam - pure bliss digging into warm mac & cheese, water, beer, orange juice and the sweet relief of not having to climb another goddang hill
🏔 Double SCAR Fastest Known Time 🏔
Starting on Thursday morning June 11th I will be attempting to set a new double SCAR FKT. I will be starting at the south end of Fontana Dam going S>N and then return, covering the 144 mi route. I will be doing this unsupported carrying everything from the start. I will be looking to improve on the current record of 65 hrs 49 min.
I will be recording the route via my Suunto 9 and will then be public on Strava and posted on FKT site.
I will be attempting the unsupported FKT starting at Davenport Gap at 5:00 AM on Friday June 19, 2020 and hopefully ending at Fontana Dam under John Kelly's 15 hours 31 mins! I have a Garmin Fenix 6 and a Spot Gen 3 tracker that I will use to verify along with a trip report and photos if I am successful.
On Saturday June 20th, 2020 at 2am I will start at Fontana and attempt to set the Supported double FKT. I will be tracking with my Coros and Garmin InReach Mini.
I had to bail on the double. Friday night we camped at the dam, but I literally got zero sleep. The sleep deprivation got me. Finished my first scar loop on 23:41.
I too will attempt setting a Supported Double SCAR FKT in this, the summer of the FKT. Matt Van Cleave will be my crew chief and will join for part of the effort. I'll depart Fontana Dam sometime in the next few days based on favorability (or if not that, then at least the minimal un-favorability) of the weather forecast. I'll have live tracking via my inReach Mini, and will record on my Garmin to share afterwards.
-- Chris Eveland
Heading to Fontana Dam now, live tracking in next hour or so.
Add me to the list of failed double attempts. Didn’t do a good job of picking a window for weather... heavy rain/fog from sunset to midnight reduced visibility and turned the northern section into about 20 miles of creek bed. That took enough out of me that I called it rather than trudge back across.
I am planning to start a double unsupported attempt on 7/18/20 around 6 am. I noticed there were no female doubles so why not give it a shot? I'll be starting at Fontana Dam, going out to Davenport Gap, then turn around and come back. I will take snap shots by signs at the start, turn around, and finish plus swap out two Garmin 920XT's for GPS tracking. I will then upload and make public to Garmin connect and Strava. That's the plan anyway!
Well, sometimes plans change! I bailed on my double attempt. First and foremost, I did not train to carry the amount of weight needed to run fully unsupported. To add to that problem was the sheer heat and humidity not to mention seeing two rattlesnakes on the trail in a 15 mile span. That was enough to end it for me! I might be back when it's cooler and hopefully the rattlesnakes won't be out then either.
Heading out Saturday 9/12 from Fontana to attempt a northbound S.C.A.R. this will be my first time trying the full route.
Started at 420 AM on Friday 10/16 - Finished 18:41 later at Davenport! Great day (support women's FKT), decided south bound has got to be easier! That Descent to Davenport Gap is a pain!
Saturday Morning 10/24 I'll be attempting a Supported Double S.C.A.R starting at Fontana Dam. I'll be using a Spot Gen3 tracker as a primary tracker along with a Spytec tracker as a backup. I'll also record the whole journey via my Coros watch which I will upload to Strava after the attempt. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and videos along the way which will be uploaded to my Facebook page to help verify my effort. Thank you everyone for this great route, I grew up hiking this section and never knew there was an FKT for it until recently!
Planning on an unsupported northbound attempt tomorrow (11/9), starting around 4:30 AM from Fontana Dam. Will post it on Strava, and I’m also bringing a SPOT tracker to verify. Been wanting to do this run for 5 or 6 years now. I would come run Smokies trails in winter with my buddy JP, who was the winter caretaker at LeConte for a while, and he told me about the route. Not sure what’s realistic for a goal time, but regardless, excited for a fun adventure run!
Had some ankles/Achilles issues and had to bail out at Newfound, 40 miles in, but very much enjoyed the day on the trails! Will be back again sometime to give it another go. :)
Hello! I'm attempting a women's supported FKT Monday, May 17th with a planned start time of 2:00am from Fontana Dam. Warren Doyle, Adrienne Mitford, and Jennifer Henry will provide crew support.
After digging around this thread and reading previous trip reports, the start point from Fontana Dam seems to be a bit ambiguous. It appears the general consensus is that the starting point is the north end of the dam. I'm basing that on A) the clarifying note included in Luke Bollschweiler's trip report, B) double-checking with Liz Canty who holds the women's supported FKT, and C) a printed map called "Hiking the Appalachian Trail Thru the Great Smoky Mountains National Park" by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, marking mile 0 of the traverse on the north side of the bridge at the three-way road intersection; plus on the elevation chart above mile zero it reads, "North End Fontana Dam".
However my attempt goes down, I hope this helps to identify a clear starting (or ending) point at Fontana Dam.
Live updates will be posted on my behalf on https://facebook.com/m1ndurance and https://instagram.com/m1ndurance. Live tracking via my Garmin Inreach Mini can be found at https://share.garmin.com/runningliz.