Mount Sterling Trail Professional Reviews and Guides
"At 5,842 feet, the top of Mount Sterling is adorned with one of only two original fire towers that hikers can climb to capture panoramas above the treetops. And the views from the spruce–fir high country of Sterling are limited only by the weather. The hike begins at Mount Sterling Gap and follows a short but sloping old jeep road to Mount Sterling Ridge and the high country. From the ridgetop, a short climb takes you to the tower."
--Johnny Molloy, Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Menasha Ridge Press).
"This Great Smoky Mountains National Park hike begins at high and historic Mount Sterling Gap, then climbs higher to enter the rare spruce fir forest that cloaks only the highest mantles of the Southern Appalachians. The ascent tops out at 5,842-foot Mount Sterling, where a preserved metal fire tower delivers unparalleled 360-degree views of the Smokies in the near and range after range in North Carolina and Tennessee."
--Johnny Molloy , Best Hikes Near Asheville, North Carolina (Falcon Guides).
"This steep trail starts high and get higher, as it enters spruce, fir forest, culminating atop 5,842-foot Mount Sterling. A fire tower stands atop the mountain, where those who climb its heights are rewarded with an eye-popping 360-degree view of the Smoky Mountains and beyond.
Anytime the skies are clear is a good time to go to Mount Sterling, with its fire tower affording a 360-degree view. Winter can be windy and snowy. Also, Old NC 284 can be closed during inclement weather. Spring has clear periods. Summer can be hazy and stormy. Autumn is a great time, with clear skies and fall colors."
--Johnny Molloy, Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2nd Edition (Wilderness Press).
"Of the three hikes in this guidebook that take you to Mount Sterling, this one is the shortest and the only one suitable for a day hike. It’s steep but short enough that you can take all the time you need. Although the trailhead is on the other side of nowhere, a surprising number of people make this steep trek. The elevation of Mount Sterling Gap is 3,888 feet; at the summit of Mount Sterling, it’s 5,842 feet. That makes 1,954 feet you have to climb in less than 3 miles. Fortunately, it’s a continuous, steady climb, without any severely steep sections."
--Kevin Adams, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Falcon Guides).
Just getting to the trailhead is half the fun. A nice steep hike which rises 2000+feet in under 2.7 miles aprox. Once you arrive at the fire tower and climb up into the lookout room and scan in a 360 angle you will understand. Do it soon because there is no telling when the Park may take it down. It just takes one cretin to hurt themselves and call a lawyer. Enjoy, Dave.
I did this trail in late June. Did not expect it to get too cold overnight. Being a southern Louisiana native, I did not expect temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s and luckily my rain jacket helped keep me warm. Aside from the unexpected overnight lows, the view from the firetower that night and the next morning was amazing. You can see into Tennessee one direction and North Carolina in the opposite. Very cool. Hike up is somewhat steep but definitely worth it.
I loved this trail. Only saw 1 other hiker (always a plus!). The top of the mountain and the fire tower were covered with thick ice and snow. It was FABULOUS. We climbed it (carefully) and truly could see for miles and miles. It is a very strenuous hike but worth every step. Yes, it is true that it is not "prestine" but the fire tower is awesome. I'll do this hike again anytime.
Mount Cammerer provides one of the best views in the Smoky Mountains. The Low Gap trail head is in the Cosby Campground, so drive to the campground and park in the area designated hiker parking.
The distance from the parking lot to the intersection with the Appalachian Trail (AT) is roughly about 2.9 miles. Over the 2.9 miles, you'll start out at an elevation just below 2,200 ft and climb to about 4,200 ft where Low Gap and the AT intersect. I would rate this portion of the hike moderate to strenuous. When you get to Low Gap, you should see the sign that says 2.1 miles to Mt. Cammerer.
The rest of the hike along the AT to the Mt. Cammerer trail is a pretty easy hike. It climbs from 4,200 ft to about 4,980 ft. At about mile 1.3 you'll be at Sunup Knob. We didn't explore here because of a potential storm coming in on us.
The trail to the Cammerer firetower is about .6 miles long. It is a trail that climbs a little and drops a little, but I'd still say it is a pretty easy trail. When you arrive at the firetower, make sure you sign the guestbook inside the firetower and hope you remembered to pack your camera. You will get great views from all around the firetower.
Total time of hike: 4hrs:35mins (2:40 up, :25 at firetower, 1:30 down) A storm was going to roll in on us, so we hiked as fast as we could to beat as much of it as we could. You should probably allow 5hrs:30mins to 6hrs to do this trail round trip.
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