Big Creek Trail

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Elevation Gain1,716ft
Trailhead Elevation1,735ft
Elevation Min/Max1734/3006ft
Elevation Start/End1735/1735ft

Big Creek Trail

Big Creek Trail is a hiking and horse trail in Haywood County, North Carolina. It is within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is 5.2 miles long and begins at 1,735 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 10.5 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,716 feet. Near the trailhead there are restroom and parking. The 37 (elevation 2,989 feet) camp site can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Swallow Fork Trail, Low Gap Trail and Camel Gap Trail.

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Maggie Valley,
Trailblazer | 534 pts
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The campsites were closed due to bear activity so we just did the first two and half miles of the hike. Nice hike, beautiful scenery! Mouse Creek Falls and Midnight Hole are gorgeous. Be sure to stop by the Big Creek general store, which is near the entrance.

Also if you are feeling the need for a little more change in elevation, you can drive a short way from the ranger station and catch part of the Appalachian Trail and hike to the Davenport Gap shelter!
Maggie Valley,
Pathfinder | 81 pts
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This is a great hike with very little change in elevation. Although we just completed the first two miles of the hike, it was breathtaking - the rock formations along the trail, the meandering creek, blue green Midnight Hole, and finally cooly refreshing Mouse Creek Falls. We always spend time searching for wildflowers and photographing along the way so our completion times are very individual. If you stroll along like we do, you can complete this part of the trail in 60 minutes. We stay at Mystic Mountain Cabin in Maggie Valley, a vacation rental, when hiking in the area.
Baton Rouge,
Explorer | 50 pts
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Big Creek probably still holds the title of worst kept secret best tent campground for Smoky Mountain Natiohnal Park. However it is getting better known and the 12 sites tend to fill up early on weekends.
Tent Sites 11 and 12 look directly over the main creek, 7-10 over a branch which is just a trickle in the dry seasons. All 12 sites are within a few yards of the main creek, close enough to fall asleep to the sound of rushing water. There is not much understory, and some of them are close enough to allow chattiness between sites.
Bob and Shirley taylor, the NPS volunteer hosts for the past three years, are extremely friendly and helpful.

Big Creek Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"A waterfall, wading spots, and a scenic backcountry campsite make this a temptingly multifaceted day or overnight hike. Take off up the old logging railroad grade. It bumps up abruptly at first, then rises its entire length along Big Creek, one of the park’s most scenic streams. The grade lies on the right (north) side of Big Creek on this lower section of the trail. At 1.4 miles, Midnight Hole is a deep pool at the base of a ledge cascade." Read more
Kevin Adams
"This may be the perfect hike for inexperienced or first-time backpackers, as well as for day hikers. It’s an easy creek-side walk, but long enough to make you feel as though you’ve done something. It provides wonderful scenery and the campsite is among the finest in the park. But just because the walk to the campsite is easy doesn’t mean this hike is for weenies. Several options make it as demanding as you want it to be. The hike is on an old motor road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. It’s wide, well graded, and never steep. Much of it follows the old logging railroad grade. Logging occurred in nearly all of the Big Creek watershed prior to park establishment." Read more
"Remember that commercial where those guys are sitting around the campfire drinking beer and one of them says, “You know, it just doesn’t get any better than this”? Well, he could have been talking about this hike. It may be the best two-night back-packing trip in the park, even without the beer. It offers everything the Smokies are famous for except historical structures, Mount Sterling Fire Tower notwithstanding. And while it’s popular among backpackers, the summer crowds thin out after the first few miles. On winter weekdays—a great time to make this trip—it’s possible to hike the entire loop without seeing another person." Read more
"Big Creek is born in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ensuring excellent water quality. The creek’s origins are northwest of Mount Sterling and Big Cataloochee Mountain. It confluences with the Pigeon River at Walters Plant. The Big Creek watershed is a very popular hiking and horseback-riding area. The streambed has a constant gradient and is full of medium-sized boulders. When these are combined with adequate water levels, they provide for an exciting, expert-level trip. This section is available only after heavy, extended rainfall and has a small window of runnability." Read more
"The hike outlined here is among the finest three-night backpacks in the park. It follows high mountain crests as it loops around the entire upper Big Creek drainage. The high-elevation forests are dark and mysterious, even with the disheartening death of trees from introduced pests and air pollution. If you’re looking for a challenging, grand adventure in the Smokies, this is it. The shelters and campsite on this hike are popular. Make your reservation as early as possible and be prepared with alternative dates when you call. Although the first night’s stay on this hike is only 8.4 miles from the trailhead, it’s a tough climb." Read more

Trail Information

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nearby City
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Horseback Riding
Additional Use
Waterfalls, Views
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Local Contacts
Waterville, Hartford, Luftee Knob, Mount Guyot, and Cove Creek Gap USGS quads; Trails Illustrated #229 Great Smoky Mountains; Trails
Local Maps

Trail Log