Jenkins Ridge Trail

You’ll start out right smack dab on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina if you’re upcoming hiking plans call for a trip along the Jenkins Ridge Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s an 8.9 mile trek to be specific, and not for the novice hiker either.

The starting point for the Jenkins Ridge Trail is at a place called Spence Field where it meets the Appalachian Trail. It ends at the junction of the Hazel Creek Trail and backcountry campsite No. 84. It’s a wonderful trail to take in some of the Smokies’ most majestic views.

As mentioned, the Jenkins Ridge Trail begins high up in the Smokies at Spence Field. Traveling south, the Jenkins Ridge Trail leaves the Appalachian Trail at 0.6 mile into the hike. This is prime blueberry area too, so take notice as you start out. This also means that this is bear and deer country. The blueberries are known to attract both creatures, especially during the month of September when the berries are at their most ripe.

Entering a hardwood forest, you’ll make a rock hop 1.8 miles in across Gunna Creek. The trail goes on to climb Blockhouse Mountain and after a slight descent makes its way back up Haw Gap 2.8 miles in. This is another area full of lush vegetation including blackberries, bee-balm, serviceberry and the like. Haw Gap itself lies between Blockhouse Mountain to the north and De Armond Bald to the south. Hiking along the ridgetop, you along pass along tributaries like Paw Paw Creek to the west.

Hikers reach Cherry Knob at 4.2 miles on the trail. From here the trail will start to drop off steeply through various hardwoods, then you’ll cross Woodward Knob and continue on the descent.

Pickens Gap is reached at mile 6.5 on the trail. From here, you’re hiking down a roadway to the Hazel Creek Trail. You’ll also pass the confluence of the Little Fork and Sugar Fork creeks about a mile from Pickens Gap. From the meeting with the Little Fork, about a quarter mile, you’ll notice a tub meal in the creek which at one time supplied corn meal to about 40 families living in the area.

Two miles from Pickens Gap you’ll notice a trail that leads up to the right, however light it may be, that leads to Higdon Cemetery. It’s about a quarter of the mile up the trail and contains around 20 graves. Moving on, you reach the junction with the Hazel Creek Trail at mile 8.9 and the end of the Jenkins Ridge Trail. Enjoy the rest of your time in the Smoky Mountains and happy hiking!

Newfound Gap Road Re-Opens Early Following January Landslide

Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) which runs from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC reopened Monday, April 15 following a three month closure. The road was closed due to a January landslide that washed away a 200-foot section of pavement.

Work on the road was actually completed a month ahead of time, and as a reward for finishing the job early, contractors Phillips and Jordan Inc. will receive a $500,000 bonus, funded by the National Park Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The contract awarded to Phillips & Jordan, Inc. in January, totaled nearly $4 million and included incentives totaling $8,000 per day that the project was completed ahead of the May deadline.

In re-constructing the damaged section of Newfound Gap Road, engineers installed pipes to allow for the drainage of subsurface water flow along with side drainage leading to a culvert at the end of the slope.

Heavy rainfall and an underground stream combined to loosen thousands of tons of rock, soil and trees in January. It was estimated that 9,000 dump truck-loads of dirt, rock and road slid 45 feet down the side of the mountain.

A subsurface spring underneath the road was believed to be the mitigating factor for the landslide, in addition to the heavy rain that had poured over the area for a number of days. Between Monday and Wednesday the week of January 14, nearly 8 inches of rain were said to have fallen in the area.

Great Smokies Flea Market

One of the great shopping destinations in the Smokies!

great smokies flea market 1

Who doesn’t love a flea market?  In Sevierville, and in fact in the Smoky Mountains, one of the best and in fact one of the biggest is Great Smokies Flea Market! Located right off of exit 407 in Sevierville, this is a shopper’s paradise with tens of thousands of products and hundreds of vendors this is one of those spots.  Everything from housewares to clothing and everything in between can be found beneath the roof of this retail paradise.

great smokies flea market 3When you walk in the front door of the indoor part of the Great Smokies Flea Market, you are stepping into one of the best organized and best maintained flea markets in the southeast.  The owners of the flea market keep out the riff-raff and and the vendors keep the consumers in the merchandise that they want.  The booths in the inside section are well lit, handicap accessible and clean.  This is not a dank, outdoor flea market, this is an indoor, heated and cooled mall.  Once you are inside, pick a row and start browsing.  A lot of the vendors on the inside are there weekend after weekend, month after month and they have been there for years.  There is literally everything under the sun, under this roof: collectibles, movies, books, housewares, furniture, everything you can imagine and all at low cost prices.

great smokies flea market 2Then you might want to venture outside.  During season, you are looking at a place for lots of outdoor vendors and a farmers market.  Aisles of produce, straight from the farm, landscaping, lawn furniture and outdoor tools.  Along with all of these wonderful vendors, this is also the place where you will see vendors that might only be at the flea market for one weekend or for a series of weekends during the season.  These outdoor areas are roofed and have clean wide walkways between them.  The outdoor booths are a revolving door through which the Great Smokies Flea Market brings lots of new merchandise and even locals that are looking for a place to have a makeshift yard sale in a bigger venue.

Of course, as in real estate, the best part about Great Smokies Flea Market is location.  When you come off of I-40 on exit 407 into Sevier County, you will take the first right hand turn.  This puts you on Dumplin Valley Dr in Sevierville.  Follow this road until you see the Great Smokies Flea Market, it will be on the right hand side of the road, don’t worry you will not miss it!  Add the Great Smokies Flea Market to your places to stop while you are in the Smokies, don’t miss the shopping experience.

Great Smokies Flea Market
220W Dumplin ValleyDr
Sevierville, TN 37864

Jakes Creek Trail

Just outside Gatlinburg, Tn you’ll find the Jakes Creek Trail, a short hike in the Smokies that takes visitors into the national park and gives them the option of using one of the many backcountry camping sites located throughout the park. In all, it’s 3.3 mile hike from Jakes Creek Road to Jakes Gap.

To get to the trailhead, start out at the Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg and take Little River Road traveling west. Take the turn into Elkmont at mile 4.9 then turn left toward the Jakes Creek Trail just before you reach campground. Keep right and park near the gate.

The Jakes Creek Trail follows the old railroad route that once ran up Jakes Creek built by the Little River Lumber Company. Once past the gate, the gravel road snakes through a forest of maples and tulip trees, as well as various other Smoky Mountain plants.

Once you’ve hiked 0.3 miles, you’ll notice that the Cucumber Gap Trail veers off to the left and at mile 0.4 the Meigs Mountain Trail takes a right. Hikers will cross Waterdog Branch 1.2 miles in by a foot log bridge. From there, the trail continues to rise before descending across Newt Prong. Be especially cautious on this portion of the trail during rainy weather.

Hikers will reach backcountry campsite No. 27 at 2.6 miles on the trail. It’s actually bordered by the trail on one side of the campsite, and the creek on the other side. This particular backcountry site gets quite a bit of use in the spring and summer months due to its close proximity to town. There’s enough room for eight campers and their horses here.

Continuing on the trail, you’ll notice that the creek soon disappears and you reach Jakes Gap at mile 3.3 – the conclusion of the Jakes Creek Trail. From here, there are two paths to choose from: the Panther Creek Trail which leads down to the Middle Prong Trail, or Miry Ridge which leads left and travels to its meeting with the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the Smokies!

Indian Grave Gap Trail

A wildflower famous in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the flame azalea, is one of the highlights for people seeking out the Indian Grave Gap Trail – a 3.7 mile hike from Rich Mountain Road just outside Cades Cove to the junction of the Crooked Arm Ridge and the Scott Mountain trails…. And the views aren’t bad either.

As mentioned, to get to the trailhead take the Cades Cove Loop Road in Townsend, TN to Rich Mountain Road which is located right across Loop Road from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. From there it’s 2.2 miles up Cades Cove Mountain. You’ll also have to cross Tater Ridge and Branch, then the Indian Grave Gap Trail veers off the road to the right. At the trailhead there is a small parking area. And just so you know, Rich Mountain Road is usually closed from November-March.

Now, if you think that you’ll find a bunch of Indian Graves on the trail, fear not. No one really knows why it was named what it was, but there are no Indian Graves to be found. Only beautiful views of the Smokies.

However, numerous Indians did pass through these areas when the Cherokee outnumbered the European settlers, especially in the Cades Cove area. You’ll notice at the start of this trail there is a gate which which was used as access for jeeps at one time. You’ll make a moderate climb at the start of the trail before it descends to Indian Grave Gap. For the next mile, you’ll gain over 1,000 feet in elevation.

The next marking on the trail is the junction with the Rich Mountain Loop Trail. At that point you know you’re nearing the height of Tater Ridge and almost 1.1 miles on the trail. Take a look off to your right and you’ll see some great views of Cades Cove.

Continuing your climb, along this part of the hike you should notice the flame azalea’s and their bright orange blossoms that erupt in June and July. You’re now ascending Double Mountain which gets its name due to its twin peaks.

The Rich Mountain Trail is met at the 1.9 mile marker and to your left sits backcountry campsite No. 5 – about 100 yards from here. Ahead is Cerulean Knob, 0.3 mile further. The three-trail junction is reached at mile 3.7 and Crooked Arm will take hikers back down to Cades Cove. Happy hiking!


Indian Creek Trail

The Indian Creek Trail in the Smokies simply has it all – waterfalls, wildflowers, old Smoky Mountain home sites, a majestic stream valley, and all on a trail that only 3.6 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To reach the Indian Creek Trail, you’ll need to make your way over to Bryson City, NC first, traveling toward the Deep Creek Campground. Once you’ve arrived there, park in the Deep Creek Trail parking area then hike a little under a mile on the Deep Creek Trail to the Indian Creek Trailhead.

Of course, this trail is primarily used by campers and hikers to get to Indian Creek Falls, and we don’t blame them. It’s quite a sight. It’s a 200-foot cascade and one of the most picturesque in the entire Smoky Mountain region.

Continuing on the trail past the falls, hikers will cross Indian Creek by bridge before reaching the part of the trail where Stone Pile Gap Trail takes a right at 0.5 miles in. If you decide to follow the Stone Pile Gap Trail at some point, it travels 0.9 miles up to the Thomas Divide Trail. Keeping on the Indian Creek Trail, you’ll notice more maples and oaks dotting the forest before meeting the creek.

Loop Trail comes into view 0.8 miles on Indian Creek Trail and once you’ve hiked around 1.5 miles the trail encircles what was once an early Smoky Mountain homestead. Moving along, you’ll pass four of these such sites: the Beard farmstead, the Widow Styles place, the Hardy Styles place, and the William Laney farm. At one point these properties all had houses, barns, and various other buildings, though no more. The only real markings that remain are the clearings.

The trail eventually meets up again with Indian Creek which flows into cascades and various whirling pools as you move along the trail. Wildflowers can be seen by the hundreds in this area of the park so be sure to pack a camera.

Passing the final farmstead, the Indian Creek Trail turns back into a wooded hike before crossing Indian Creek again by bridge. The trail goes on a reaches the Deeplow Gap Trail at 2.9 miles. Four more bridges make up the final mile of the trail before reaching the junction with the Martins Gap Trail. Enjoy your adventure in the Smokies!

Indian Creek Motor Trail

A connector trail if there ever was one, the Indian Creek Motor Trail stretches for all of 1.8 miles on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. What it connects are two larger trails – the Thomas Divide Trail and the Deeplow Gap Trail. To put it simply, it’s a quick trip through the forest.

To get to it, make your way on over to Bryson City, NC. From there you’ll follow the signs to the Deep Creek Ranger Station, then drive a mile up Tom Branch Road to the trailhead for the Thomas Divide Trail. After a 3.2 mile hike on the Thomas Divide Trail, you’ve reached the Indian Creek Motor Trail.

This was at one time the proposed site of a scenic auto tour, hence the “motor trail” portion of the name, until the project was abandoned totally. And just so that everyone is on the same page, automobiles are not allowed on this trail.

The Indian Creek Motor Trail makes its way downhill through tulip trees, yellow birches, and red maple, among various other species. Spring wildflowers can be found in abundance along the trail as well.

Moving on along the trail, a small waterfall can be seen to the right especially during the wetter months and in the spring. A small creek is even seen following the trail on the left as you walk on. In mid April this is a great place to spot the popular dogwood tree which bloom out in magnificent white.

More tulip trees can be seen before you reach mile 1.8 and the junction with the Deeplow Gap Trail.

The AT in the Smokies

The AT in the Smokies

The most hiked section of the Appalachian Trail

at logoThe southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains, with its temperate climate, slow changes in elevation and lush greenery, is a haven to hikers from around the world.  People flock to the Smokies especially to spend time on any number of trails, but the trail that is most popular and the one that a lot of people want to tackle part of is the Appalachian Trail. One end of the AT starts in the Smokies, in northern Georgia.  From that point you can work your way north to the heart of the Smokies in North Carolina and Tennessee, passing through state parks and national parks along the way.  It is a gradual climb that will inspire both awe and a renewed sense of respect for the mountain folk and Native Americans that hiked these trails season after season in the time before their were European style cities in the area.

North Georgia

In North Georgia, you will start at Springer Mountain, one of the southern most areas of the Smokies.  Technically you are in the foothills of the Smokies at this point.  The gentle slopes, the gradual climb, the verdant landscapes will help to build your anticipation as you progress north.  In this area, you will pass near towns and civilization.  The hike takes you near several state parks with facilities that are open almost year round, depending on the weather.  The North Georgia part of the AT is some of the easiest hiking that the trail has to offer.  Even if you start here when it is late spring you will find that the elevation is not high enough to give you the extremely cold temps that you will encounter in the highest elevations.

Fontana Dam

fontana damOne of the next high points on the trail that you will come across is Fontana Dam.  At this point on the AT you have made your way into North Carolina, your second state if you are heading north from Georgia.  Fontana Lake is one of those TVA created lakes that took in the small towns of Judson and Proctor (near present day Bryson City) when Fontana Dam was established in the early part of the 20th century.  As the trail winds around Fontana Dam, you are going to start to gain some serious altitude.  The elevation change will start to reveal a change in the wildlife and the flora around you.  Just north of Fontana Lake and Dam, yes you follow the dam as you start up the mountain, you will climb until you are walking the ridge of the Great SMoky Mountains in the GSMNP.  You are  also walking the Tennessee / North Carolina line at this point on the trail.

Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap Road

The top of the world in the Smokies is Clingman’s Dome.  You will go all the way to the top of this part of the mountain as you progress northward on the AT.  The climb to Clingman’s Dome will take some time even for the most seasoned of hikers but the breath taking views from these peaks are like no other you will find east of the Mississippi River.  As you reach the summit of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will immediately start back down again.  Soon you will arrive at the most visited portion of the GSMNP, the piece of the Appalachian Trail that starts at the Newfound Gap parking area and trailhead.  From this point you can hike almost 2 miles of the AT, the most hiked portion of the 2,200 mile trail.

Roan Mountain State Park

tn nc state lineIf you were to hike from the Newfound Gap trailhead and continue northward the next focal point you are going to come to is Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee.  If you happen to plan your hike through accordingly you can spend some time at the top of the mountain in the rhododendron garden while it is in bloom.  Bring a camera and prepare to take a lot of pictures.  With the Catawbas in bloom it is a pink and purple wonderland of color.  Roan Mountain also has lots of facilities that a Thru-Hiker might need to take advantage of like campgrounds and other amenities.

Hike the various pieces of the Appalachian Trail int he Smoky Mountains.  Take in the terrain and the sights and the sounds of nature from the trails that make up the AT.  Hike the most hiked portion of the trail and then you too can say that you hiked the AT!

Appalachian Trail – A History

Appalachian Trail

A History

The Appalachian Trail is one of the big draws for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Conceived in the 20s, this brain child of Benton MacKaye had the first section established in 1923 and now it is one of the three big trails in the United States.  Starting in Georgia and ending in Maine, this 2,200 mile trek is one of the accomplishments that makes a Thru-Hiker drool.  The first part of the Appalachia Trail starts in Northern Georgia inside the Smokies and the most hiked portion of the Appalachian Trail is the 1.7 miles that starts at the Newfound Gap Trailhead.

at logo on trailThe Appalachian Trail, or AT as it had come to be known, was thought of by Benton MacKaye and fellow hiking enthusiasts in New England.  They had been kicking around the idea of a national trail, an eastern trail that would cover the beauty of the Appalachian mountains for years.  Trail blazing started in the north, with trees and trails being emblazoned with the familiar diamond shaped logo that still marks trails to this day. As the years progressed people got more and more into the idea of a trail that covered most of the Appalachians.  Eventually this movement culminated in the idea that the trail would stretch from Georgia to Maine.  The AT grew in both fame and length as the years went on until it reached its current length of 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt Katahdin in Maine.

Since the establishment of the AT, not only has the trail received national attention but it has received national funding too.  A national Appalachian Trail Conference was established in the 30s, which later became the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  This organization helps to track the number of people that are hiking the AT each year and also spends time making sure that the trail stays maintained and usable by guests.  Maintaining over 2,000 miles of trails is a huge undertaking but one that the AT Conservancy delights in.  Along with this, they provide tools and resources for Thru-Hikers, those people that take the time to hike from Georgia to Maine, a trip that might take 5-7 months depending on how many miles you are hiking a day.

at newfound gapThru-Hikers make up a huge number of the people that hike the AT each year.  These Thru-Hikers depend on the people that visit the area and the locals alike to keep them going as they cover the miles.  The people that hike the trails, especially the Thru-Hikers find themselves at the mercy of the elements and the conditions on the trails.  The brief respite that they get are jaunts into town in the back of a pickup to pick up supplies and get a break from the rigors of the trail.  They are hiking history on the AT.  They are covering the ground that was hiked by the frontiersmen, pioneers and the Native American people that inherited the land before white settlers arrived.  As Thru-Hikers make their way from Georgia toe Maine, or from Maine to Georgia, they pass through some of the most beautiful land that the country has to offer – the Smokies, the Blue Ridge the Shenandoah Valley and of course through the gorgeous landscape that is all of New England.

Hyatt Ridge Trail

As challenging as a 4.4-mile trail can be, the Hyatt Ridge Trail is for the most part a straight uphill hike on its way to backcountry campsite No. 44 in the Smoky Mountains.

To reach the Hyatt Ridge Trail, coming from the Oconoluftee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, take Big Cove Road for 8 miles and continue when it becomes Straight Fork Road for about 2.5 miles. The trailhead will come up on the left.

Hikers start their climb along Hyatt Creek. This was area that was once heavily logged for the highly sought-after red spruce. These days it’s a mixed hardwood forest. The trail is rocky as you continue beside the stream before reaching the creek’s main outlet 1.2 miles in. At the points you do have to make a water crossing, most are easy hops along steady rocks.

At 1.8 miles the trail reaches a point called Low Gap, because it’s low. The trail’s junction with the Enloe Creek Trail is here. Meanwhile, Hyatt Ridge turns right and hikers ascend out of the gap. From here, the trail levels off for a bit.

Climbing to Hyatt Bald is a bit of a mystery as the so-call Bald is primarily wooded and grassy. You’ll pass the trail’s intersection with the Beech Gap Trail before continuing along the ridge on the Hyatt Ridge Trail.

Before long, you’ve hiked a hearty 4.4 miles and you notice a sign indicating the way to McGee Spring, or backcountry campsite No. 44. Enjoy the beauty of Smokies!