Sugarland Mountain Trail Professional Review and Guide
"It’s almost unheard of that you can hike more than 12 miles in the Smokies without having to do much climbing, but that’s exactly the situation here. By starting on the main Smokies crest, it’s pretty much downhill all the way except for a moderate stretch toward the end. Along the way you drop more than 3,500 feet in elevation and pass through several forest types—spruce fir at the highest elevation, and then high-elevation birch, hemlock, northern hardwood, and pine. Some of the trees at the upper end are quite impressive. This is one of the better hikes in the book for showing the diversity of forests of the Smokies."
--Kevin Adams, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Falcon Guides).
We hiked part of the sugarland trail as a car shuttle by starting at the Huskey Gap trail head, followed the Sugarland trail to the Rough Creek trail to the Little River trail and then back up Huskey Gap to the Sugarland trail and ending at Fighting Creek Gap (Across from the Laurel Falls trail head).Total miles 15.9. The trail starts out through old growth hardwoods and continues into the new growth hardwood forest. This was a continual climb for the first 6 miles. The trail was in great condition but the going was slow because you had to be very cautious with your footing with of all of the fall leaves covering the trail. We seen two magnificent bucks, a 6 & 8 point that were not more then 50' from us. So awesome to just watch them in their natural surroundings. Some rough, rocky areas along Rough Creek. The hike along the Little River Trail was refreshing, we really enjoyed the creek.
Because of the route we chose to hike I would rate this as a moderate to strenuous hike going up Huskey Gap and The Sugarlands trail (2,700' gain in elevation). With time out for breaks and deer watching it took us 7.5 Hours. Beautiful trail in the fall, nice views, great creek, we only ran into a handful of other hikers. Returned on 11/27 to hike the rest of the trail from Clingmans Dome to Huskey Gap- Awesome trail! Would not want to hike back up the other direction.
Great trail and very scenic. We only did the first 5 upper miles or so then returned to the car as we did not have a shuttle lined up. The return trip was brutal as it was all climbing. The view of Chimney Tops is easy to miss as vegetation has grown since most guide books were written. The views of Bullhead and Gatlinburg are phenomenal. You can also see Clingman's Dome and most of the high peaks in the western side of the park. It really did smell like Christmas and we saw lots of bear scat on the trail.
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