Top Trails Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2nd Edition  by Johnny Molloy

Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2nd Edition Guide Book

by Johnny Molloy (Wilderness Press)
Top Trails Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2nd Edition  by Johnny Molloy
With its secluded mountain waterways, awe-inspiring views from grassy balds, diverse plant and animal life, and impressive stands of old-growth forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an overwhelming number of outdoor adventures. Top Trails Great Smoky Mountains National Park describes both the park’s classic destinations and lesser-known jewels in 50 must-do hikes.

© 2017 Johnny Molloy/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2nd Edition" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

Travel the ultrascenic and lesser visited Abrams Creek valley to reach a signature Smokies waterfall. Much of the hike travels through the rugged Abrams Creek gorge, offering streamside views and continuous beauty. Vistas of Chilhowee Mountain open in places. Abrams Falls will be its boldest during winter and spring. You will also enjoy solitude and relatively mild winter temperatures on this lowland trek that never rises above 1,600 feet of elevation. May has the added benefit of trailside mountain laurel blooms. Summer brings crowds to the falls, the vast majority coming from Cades Cove.
Happy Valley, TN - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 11 miles
The hike to Abrams Falls from Cades Cove can be heavily peopled, but the sight and sounds of the wide falls are an experience to be shared by one and all. The trail to the falls, alternately coursing among waterside evergreens and hillside piney woods, parallels Abrams Creek in unbroken beauty. The falls is a true rumbler and has an incredibly large pool. Winter offers the most solitude. The falls will be at its boldest then as well as in the spring. Summer can be hot and crowded but is good for swimming. Consider going early or late in the day during potentially busy times.
Townsend, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 5 miles
Hike from a lesser-used trailhead, passing the wellpreserved Willis Baxter Cabin. Travel amid more pioneer homesites in quiet stream valleys before entering the land of giant trees—old-growth forest now preserved forever. The uppermost part of the hike makes a short loop between Dunn Creek and Indian Camp Creek, taking you by trees that helped supporters make the case for establishing the Smoky Mountains National Park. During fall you will see not merely big trees but big trees cloaked in autumn finery. After the leaves have fallen, the many pioneer homesites of the area are more evident, as are big trees beyond the edge of the trail. This area is also a fine spring-wildflower destination. Winter offers maximum seclusion.
Gatlinburg, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.7 miles
Some hikes are busy for a reason. This one has several, including highlights ranging from spectacular views to old-growth forests to a natural arch—rare for the Smokies—and finally to an overhanging bluff with views of its own. A well-timed hike will let you enjoy these highlights on a less-crowded day. Winter offers the most solitude on this busy trek. Otherwise, try to hike early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds. This trail was rehabilitated in 2016.
Gatlinburg, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6 miles
From the park’s highest trailhead, explore the extraordinary spruce-fir forest community on the way to the meadow of Andrews Bald, resplendent with stunning views. Andrews Bald was historically known as Anders Bald until an errant mapmaker renamed it Andrews Bald, which stuck. Clingmans Dome Road, the trail access and where this hike begins, is open from April through November; check ahead if you’ll be hiking during the shoulder seasons. June features great Catawba rhododendron blooms, as well as flame azaleas. August is good for blueberry picking, and fall is best for views. In midsummer, the bald is sometimes enshrouded in fog and mist.
Bryson City, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6 miles
Head to a less-visited waterfall near Gatlinburg. Follow the Baskins Creek Trail over a ridge with views, then drop to aptly named Falls Branch. Make a side trip to a pioneer cemetery, then pass a homesite before reaching Baskins Falls as it tumbles over a wide bluff. Note: The forest along this hike was affected by the Chimney Tops 2 fire of 2016. This waterfall walk is best in spring, when Falls Branch is at its boldest. It can also be good in winter, when Baskins Falls freezes. In winter, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will be gated, but you can simply walk around the gate to access the trail.
Gatlinburg, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2 miles
Visit a homesite and huge trees on this loop. Follow Rough Fork in old-growth northern red oak, climbing up and over Big Fork Ridge to Caldwell Fork, a gorgeous stream. Pass the “Big Poplars,” massive tulip trees. Complete the circuit with a second climb of Big Fork Ridge. Because this watery loop requires no wet fords, winter is a great time to enjoy it. That’s when the large forest trees really stand out. During the warm season, anglers can fish and hikers can take a dip in the creek. The big trees display their colors in autumn. Two backcountry campsites make for a good one-night starter loop or an extended backpack fishing foray.
Maggie Valley, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 9.1 miles
This trail is named for shy Robert “Boogerman” Palmer. When asked his name in school, he purportedly hid his face and said, “Boogerman.” It stuck for life. This hike appropriately starts with a footlog crossing. You’ll be quite familiar with these narrow bridges before this loop is over. Along the way enjoy huge trees, homesites, and mountain streams. There is quite a bit of up and down, but the trail makers were simply visiting the biggest trees in the area. Winter is a good time, since the elevations aren’t high and the lack of leaves allows views of big trees and historic homesites. Spring reveals copious wildflowers along Caldwell Fork. Summer could be warm. The trails are their driest in fall.
Waynesville, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.5 miles
This hike takes you to appropriately named Roaring Fork to reach Grotto Falls, a popular cascade. The crowds disappear as you climb to Trillium Gap. A short ramble leads atop Brushy Mountain, where views await amid a heath bald plant community. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is generally closed from late November until mid-March, cutting off trailhead access, though you can walk from Cherokee Orchard Road, adding 1.8 miles each way. In spring Grotto Falls are bold, and the views from Brushy Mountain are extensive. During warmer times, the trail to Grotto Falls can be crowded. Fall is a good choice, with clear skies presenting far-reaching panoramas.
Gaitlinburg, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.6 miles
From the popular waterfall and swimming area of the Sinks on the Little River, take the quiet Meigs Creek Trail over a ridge with views. Join Meigs Creek to view a waterfall. Numerous creek crossings of Meigs Creek and its tributaries lead through a gorgeous and secluded valley to wooded Buckhorn Gap. You will have to make nearly 20 rock-hop crossings of Meigs Creek and its tributaries on this trek. Late summer and fall offer the lowest water and easiest crossings. However, the waterfall of the Sinks and Meigs Creek Falls is less spectacular then. Consider coming during early summer when you can wet your feet without penalty and enjoy bolder cascades. During spring, the Meigs Creek valley can be a wildflower wonderland.
Townsend, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.8 miles
This water-based backpack has a little high country mixed in. Travel up Bradley Fork to dead end at a streamside flat deep in the mountains. Leave the valley and climb to quiet Hughes Ridge where northern hardwoods and evergreens await. Descend to a streamside camp along upper Chasteen Creek. Your return route leads past Chasteen Creek Cascades. Summer is good for swimming and fishing. In June, backpackers can achieve a big bloom “triple crown,” as flame azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron color the trails. The spring wildflowers along Bradley Fork are stunning. The elevation variation is sure to bring autumn splash anytime during the fall. Crowds aren’t much of an issue here, though Cabin Flats backcountry campsite #49 sees summer weekend use.
Cherokee, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 17.4 miles
This secluded low-elevation hike leads from Abrams Creek Ranger Station through lush valleys and over piney ridges to the Buchanan Cemetery, an interment for the residents of now-wild Cane Creek valley. The last part of the hike traverses the relatively little-used Cane Creek Trail. Pass two less-used backcountry campsites along the way. As a low-elevation hike, it might be hot on the trail in the summer. That same low elevation makes this hike appealing in winter, when the temperatures will be much milder than in the high country.
Happy Valley, TN - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 9.8 miles
Leave busy Newfound Gap and head northbound on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Rise amid rare spruce-fir forest with occasional clearings that present warm-up views. Pass Icewater Springs trail shelter before descending a knife-edge ridge. Come to the outcrop where amazing views into the Volunteer State and beyond open wide. The park tries to keep Newfound Gap Road open year-round; thus, this trek is a good way to jump into the maw of a high-country winter. Spring and fall are good choices with clear skies; summer is busy.
Gatlinburg, TN - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 8 miles
Leave Elkmont and cruise up the ultra-attractive Little River valley, where the watercourse tumbles over huge boulders, forming large, clear pools that invite a dip in the cool mountain stream. Pass a tributary waterfall. Leave the Little River on an old railroad grade that gently climbs to a gap and then descends to Jakes Creek Valley, returning to Elkmont. This is a great hike year-round. In spring, wildflowers abound along the Little River and Huskey Branch. Swimmers and sunbathers can enjoy the big waters of the Little River. Fall colors are vibrant along the streams and near Cucumber Gap. Solitude seekers will enjoy winter.
Gatlinburg, TN - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.6 miles
This great family dayhike has numerous rewards. Visit Juney Whank Falls, then cruise hills above Deep Creek before returning to visit cataracts on Indian Creek. Enjoy a streamside cruise on lower Deep Creek, passing Tom Branch Falls. Winter and spring are best for seeing these waterfalls at their boldest; you’ll also find solitude then. Water lovers will want to come here during summer, but many others will enjoy the aquatic features with you then.
Bryson City, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4 miles
This great family dayhike first passes an overlook, and then travels along a high-elevation stream to reach a waterfall and second vista. One of the highest water hikes in the park, the hike is near a picnic area and campground. The access, Heintooga Ridge Road, is generally open from mid-May through October. Enjoy a respite from the broiling lowlands during summer. June offers the most water in Flat Creek and a more robust falls. Fall has colors that contrast with the spruce trees, plus clear skies for awesome views.
Maggie Valley, NC - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8 miles
Regularly done as a dayhike, this trip can be an excellent backpack for water lovers and backpack beginners. Take a boat shuttle to Hazel Creek and piney creekside camp. Follow Lakeshore Trail past old homesites to Eagle Creek and a lakeside camp. Pass more pioneer history as the Lakeshore Trail delivers you to Fontana Dam. Fontana Lake is at its most scenic when in full pool during summer. Swimming also is good then. Spring offers cooler temperatures and wildflowers. Winter is a poor choice because of annual lake draw-downs.
Fontana Dam, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 13.3 miles
This challenging backpack loop has major elevation changes. Explore spruce-fir ridges and camp near high-elevation streams. Descend beneath big spruce and yellow birch trees on Fork Ridge to junglelike Deep Creek. Climb to the Appalachian Trail (AT) with views from Mount Collins. Clingmans Dome Road, the trail access and where this hike begins, is open from April through November. Spring and fall have the clearest skies for stupendous views. Call ahead about road conditions if you want to hike during the shoulder seasons. Midsummer through fall is best for fishing. Autumn offers color, solitude, and drier trails.
Bryson City, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 20.1 miles
This tough but rewarding backpack involves numerous creek fords and an elevation change of more than 4,000 feet one-way! Travel Forney Ridge, passing Andrews Bald, to make Forney Creek. Ascend Forney Creek and visit Forney Creek Cascades on your return trip. Clingmans Dome Road, the trail access and where this hike begins, is open from April through November; check ahead if you’ll be hiking during the shoulder seasons. June features great rhododendron and flame azalea blooms. Midsummer through fall is best for swimming and fishing Forney Creek. Fording the streams is safer then, because the waterways are at their lowest.
Bryson City, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 19.4 miles
Travel a seldom-trod area of the Smokies, finding forgotten chimneys of old homesites. Gain views of Fontana Lake and small streams that feed it. Several old roads and trails spur off the loop, luring budding historians. Summer is when Fontana Lake is at full pool and best for swimming. During fall the trails are their driest. Open winter woods reveal old homesites most clearly and offer maximum solitude. The Goldmine Loop is an undiscovered gem of a day hike in the Smoky Mountains.
Bryson City, NC - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 3.2 miles