Looking for a way to get to the Appalachian Trail and a little warm up as well? The Goshen Prong Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is a great way to do just that and take in a number of beautiful mountain streams, as well as a cave, on the way.
In all, it’s a 7.6 mile journey from the Little River Trail to the Goshen Prong’s intersection with the AT. To get there, travel to the Elkmont Campground in Gatlinburg and park at the Little Rive trailhead. You’ll hike 3.7 miles up the Little River Trail till you come to its junction with the Goshen Prong Trail.
Starting out on the trail, you’ll notice a fairly wide trail and a rather easy climb. You’re hiking on old logging railroad beds that signals that the area was once logged heavily before being designated a park. Railroads were what got the logs out of the forests in those days. You’ll soon cross the Little River by way of an iron bridge.
Continuing on the trail, notice the ferns and mosses that now appear. You’ll also notice some old stone walls left over from the logging days. This is a great area to view a number of Smoky Mountain wildflowers during the spring and early summer.
You’ll see the creek cascade about a mile in on the trail, as well as two waterfalls before you start on the rocky, sometimes muddy, portion of the trail. That doesn’t that for long as an easier path comes into view among American beech trees. You’ll also notice a few fern fields along the trail – great places to sit, take a break and just admire the beauty of the Smokies. The path to backcountry campsite No. 23 is also passed along the trail. It’s one of the prettier backcountry sites, around 100 yards off the trail.
You’re now 4.4 miles from the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, traveling left and through a rhododendron thicket. You’ll soon drop down to Goshen Prong and a few pools, and continue on the trail crossing a few more creeks before reaching the cave.
The cave is on the left and can provide a bit of shelter from a rain cloud. However, try to keep away from such structures during a lightening storm.
Continuing on, you’ll cross a dry creek bed before hiking a rocky last mile of the trail. At the junction with the Appalachian Trail you’ll see a trail sign and the familiar white blazes marking the AT. Good luck on the trail!