SummaryTrail GuideTopo MapReviewsPhotosGPS
Mount Sterling Loop Professional Review and Guide
"Start this trip at Big Creek Ranger Station (an out-of-the-way yet easily accessible departure point) for a trip along Big Creek and into the high country. Follow an old road on a gentle grade to Walnut Bottoms. Camp where several streams come together to provide ample fishing opportunities for those inclined to drop a line. Then climb the rigorous Swallow Fork Trail to the high country on Mount Sterling Ridge. Some pleasant ridge walking leads to Mount Sterling and your second night’s destination, at the highest unsheltered backcountry campsite in the park. Pass through old-growth forest on your descent along Baxter Creek Trail and back to Big Creek, where the loop ends."
--Johnny Molloy, Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Menasha Ridge Press).
The long and brutal hike up to the top was so worth it. We started at Big Creek and came up Baxter Creek Trail, 6.2 miles of brutal up-hill climbing. The fire/overlook tower at the top provided stunning views. There were plenty of campsites at the top with cables to hang our packs and food bags. We had the place to ourselves on a Monday night. Highly recommend this hike - but it's strenuous.
Two of us decided to take a week-end hike and were unable to find reservations at many of the backcountry sites in the smokies so when we were finally able to get a reservation at campsite #47 we thought we'd give it a try. Most of the reviews I had read said this trail was one of the muddiest in the entire park so lucky for us we were hiking up after a very dry part of the season. Other then a couple of spots there wasn't much mud, but this is a horse trail at parts so be careful where you step. We camped the first night at campsite #48 and although it was an alright site with a ton of firewood to be found, campsite #47 was the real jewel. Next time I would opt to do the entire hike up to #47 in one day and spend the entire week-end there. We also decided to come back out the way we went in avoinding the 10 miles on the last day. Like I was saying, #47 is a great campsite. It sits right on the creek so if you are like me and like exploring up and down full flowing creeks, this is your place. One thing I will say is get there early enough to find wood. We did pass a bear about 50 yards off the trail on the way in, so trying to find firewood at night can be a bit scary, and rather difficult. We ate lunch literally in the middle of the creek which was cool and I would say there is plenty of fish to be caught up and down the stream.
Another plus is if you are like me and my friends who like to come up after work on a friday and stay the week-end, you can come in late and stay at campsite #50 which is about a mile into the hike, and then go all the way to #47, but be warned it is pretty steep up and back down the other side.
Sign in/up to upload photos.