Little Greenbrier Trail

Here’s a great little nature trail in the Smokies and a fairly moderate hike to the Laurel Falls Trail, it’s called the Little Greenbrier Trail. It covers 4.3 miles from its start at Wear Cove Gap Road to its meeting with the Laurel Falls Trail.

To get to the Little Greenbrier Trail, make your way to Wear Cove Road. The trail can also be accessed from the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, across the bridge. From there it’s 1.25 miles to the trailhead which is reached just prior to the park boundary. However, there is limited parking here, so be advised you may have to search for a spot if they’re all filled up at the trailhead.

As noted, if you’re a nature-lover of wildflowers and majestic scenery this is a great trail for you even though it is mostly an uphill hike. Still, if you feel that you can hack it, you’re rewarded with scenery that many have chosen to forego in their search for the perfect Smoky Mountain hike.

You’ll climb through mixed hardwoods throughout most of the trail. For those in the know, the Little Greenbrier Trail is known for its surplus of blueberries which make it a great summer/fall trail.

Notice Wear Cove as you hike along the ridge. This is just the first of many great look outs you’re afforded along the Little Greenbrier Trail. Markers along the trail will notify you when you cross the national park boundary, of which there are many.

A few of more popular wildflower species found on the trail include orchids and they’re seen throughout as you move on and reach the 1.9 mile marker and Little Brier Gap Trail. Taking a right onto the Little Brier Gap Trail will lead you to the Walker Sisters’ home site. It’s one of the more historical sites located in the park that is still standing and worth making a little side trip if you have time.

Continuing straight on the Little Greenbrier, you’ll keep climbing as you ascend Chinquapin Ridge. As you hike around the ridge, one of the best views in the park makes its presence known as Wear Cove comes into full view. From its beautiful valleys to its lush green hillsides, you’re gonna want to make good use of any camera you may have brought with you.

The rest of the trail takes hikers straight to the junction with Laurel Falls Trail. From there, it’s a 1.8 mile hike down to spectacular Laurel Falls. Enjoy the Smoky Mountains!

Little Cataloochee Trail

The Little Cataloochee Trail is a 5.2 mile hike filled with historic structures as well as rolling Smoky Mountain hills and valleys on the North Carolina side of the park.

To get you started, you need to make your way to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail, which lies 0.8 mile on Cataloochee Road. You’ll begin the trail along an old road through overgrown fields before crossing Little Davidson Branch by way of a few stepping stones. From here you’ll begin a steep ascent, crossing over the stream several more times.

You’ll notice a number of wildflower species as you move along the trail before reaching the first switchback a mile in. At 1.5 miles on the trail, you’ll see the first historic structure  on the left – on old farmstead.

Davidson Gap is reached at 1.8 miles on the trail following a rather steep climb. Hiking on, your descent begins in earnest as you hike past a rock wall before a switchback spits you out into the valley and the trail turns into a road. The farm is reached at 1.9 miles on the trail and you can take a break to observe the house and springhouse. To other structures, the apple house and the barn, are located in Oconaluftee and the Cataloochee Ranger Station respectively.

The Dan Cook log home is approached at the 2.5 mile marker. It’s not the original structure as it was reconstructed in 1999 following damage that had occurred at the site in years past. Dan Cook himself was known as a master carpenter in his day and built a number of structures in the area. Notice the fence posts that still stand in the vicinity where old homesteads once stood and at 3.2 miles you can climb up to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church – one of the most picturesque places along the trail.

Follow the trail as it goes on behind the church and cross Little Cataloochee Creek around 3.7 miles in. The John Jackson Hannah cabin appears soon thereafter at about 4 miles via a side trail. This cabin was also restored, but in 1976 by the park service.

The Long Bunk Trail goes left at 4.1 miles leading to the Mount Sterling Trail. The Hannah Cemetery is just 0.2 miles in on this trail and one might think about making that quick side trip to view the historic cemetery.

Back on the Little Cataloochee Trail, you’ll hike around the end of a ridge until you cross Correll Branch and go on to the meeting of NC 284 and the finale of the Little Cataloochee Trail. Enjoy the Smokies!

Little Brier Gap Trail

As far as historical trails go in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’d be hard pressed to find a trail that packs as much history into as small a distance as the Little Brier Gap Trail.

It’s only a 1.4 mile trail, but during that time you’ll pass the Little Greenbrier School, as well as the Walker Sisters’ cabin and farm. It’s a great spot for taking shots of historic structures still standing that belonged to some of the region’s earliest settlers and some of the last to live in the park.

To get to the trailhead which is located at Little Greenbrier School, drive to Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, or hike the 0.6 mile Metcalf Bottoms Trail to the school. From the school’s parking area, the trail starts just up the hill.

As you begin your hike on the Little Brier Gap Trail, take note of the trees that surround the trail. These same species were the ones that early settlers like the Walker family used to construct their homestead – tuliptrees, white oak, maple, and beech were all used in one aspect or another to build and maintain their cabin.

After hiking three quarters of way, notice that the grassy road continues on and a gravel trails back. The grassy way takes hikers on to the Little Greenbrier Trail, the gravel road takes hikers to the Walker Sisters’ cabin. Besides the cabin, the springhouse is also still standing at the site which stored items like milk and eggs. It was said that there used to be many outbuildings that once stood on the property due to the industriousness of John Walker. Today, all that remain are the springhouse and corn crib/gear shack. A barn, pigpen, smokehouse, apple house, and blacksmith shop are said to be among the buildings that once stood on the property.

In all, 5 Walker sisters lived on the property up until 1964 when the last, Louisa Susan, passed away. They even lived on the property after the land was designated as a national park through a “life-time lease” which allowed property owners to sell their land to the park, yet live out their lives there.

Back on the trail, continue on to the trails end at the junction with the Little Greenbrier Trail where you can head east to the Laurel Falls Trail, west to Wear Cove Road, or just circle back to Little Greenbrier School. Happy hiking!


Little Bottoms Trail

All you Smokies hikers out there looking for great little creek as well as backcountry campsite to camp out at need to look no further than the Little Bottoms Trail, a 2.3 miler on the Tennessee side of the park.

To get there, prepare to hike 1.3 miles by way of the Cooper Road Trail from the Abrams Creek ranger station. By the time you reach and hike Little Bottoms, you’ll have reached its junction with the Hatcher Mountain Trail.

To say that this trail gets its share of use would be an understatement. It’s THE people use to reach Abrams Falls from Happy Valley and a popular alternate route to the falls for those who wish to avoid the traffic of Cades Cove.

Starting out on the trail you’ll ascend a ridge of pine. The popular Indian Pipe blooms in abundance here from June through August in small clusters. Passing over the ridge, you’ll soon hear the flow Abrams Creek. Backcountry campsite No. 17 is reached at mile 1.6 on the trail and Abrams Creek moves musicly not far from here. An old Smokies homesite is still visible here and campers can use the creek as a water source.

The trail reaches its end at 2.3 miles at its intersection with the Hatcher Mountain Trail. Enjoy the Smokies!

Lead Cove Trail

Spence Field has become one of the most visited sites in the Great Smoky Mountains for its majestic views and vistas. There are a number of ways to get there including by way of the Lead Cove Trail – a 1.8 mile hike from Laurel Creek Road to the Bote Mountain Trail.

Not only does the Lead Cove Trail put you on the way to Spence Field, it also takes you by an old cabin site. To get there, by way of Big Spring Cove on Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove, keep your eye out for a trail sign on the east side of the road. There is limited parking there (under 10 spots), so fair warning.

As the upper loop of a 7-mile trail to Spence Field, which also includes the Finley Cane and Bote Mountain trails, the Lead Cove Trail starts out following Laurel Creek Road before turning into the Smoky Mountain backcountry. You’ll find hemlock, tuliptrees, and a variety of hardwoods as you move along this first part of the trail. You’ll soon cross Sugar Cove Prong as the trail continues to rise. Sugar Cove follows the trail and you’ll see the ruins of an old chimney and stone foundation soon thereafter. The cabin that at one time stood here belonged to Gibson Tipton whose family were some of the first white settlers of Cades Cove.

Continuing your ascent, several areas with prevalent wildflower growth are hiked. Wildlife including bears are said to frequent these paths because of the appearance of the wildflower squawroot. Black cherry trees are also found in this area – a favorite of bears, as well as the chestnut oak.

You’ll come upon the trail’s lone overlook as you approach the junction with the Bote Mountain Trail. In the distance, Scott Mountain makes an appearance. Hiking on, you’ll reach the Bote Mountain Trail after a few hundred yards. Enjoy your time in the Smokies!

Kanati Fork Trail

The Kanati Fork Trail isn’t just a Smoky Mountain trail with a funny name. It’s a challenging uphill hike that with test even the most experienced of hikers and one where you can get some incredible shots of spring wildflowers.

In all, it’s a 2.9 mile hike from its trailhead on Newfound Gap Road to the junction with the Thomas Divide Trail. To reach the trailhead, walk 0.3 miles north of the Kephart Prong Trail parking area which is eight miles north of the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.

Like many other trails in the Smokies, the Kenati Fork Trail is a wonderful trail for viewing spring wildflowers, but it’s also a trail that can be fairly muddy if a storm has come through the area recently. The name “Kanati” comes from an old Cherokee tale, though there is no known reason as to why it was applied to this stream.

As you ascend this trail, notice the lush forest of birch and magnolia, as well as the creek valley on your left. Wildflowers that can be found along the Kanati Fork Trail include bee-balm, great chickweed, Dutchman’s britches, rue anemone, violets, trillium, and trout-lily.

Hikers will cross, then cross again, one of Kanati Fork’s feeder creeks, climb a switchback, then crosses the creek for a third time at 0.9 mile on the trail.

Thomas Divide creeps ever closer at the 2-mike marker and you cross another feeder creek before the trail levels off somewhat and another switchback come into play. At 2.9 miles, you reach the intersection with the Thomas Divide Trail and the end of the Kenati Fork Trail. Happy hiking!

Juney Whank Falls Trail

Though the Juney Whank Falls Trail is only 0.3 mile, it packs quite a punch at the end. It’s sole purpose is to take hikers to one of the most picturesque falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Juney Whank Falls.

To reach this trail, you’ll drive over to the North Carolina side of the park to Bryson City. From there, you’ll follow the signs through downtown to the Deep Creek Campground in the national park. Once you reach Deep Creek itself, don’t cross it, just park at the area at the end of the road. You’ll find the trailhead at one end of the parking area.

Juney Whank actually takes its name from the Cherokee Indian tribe and means “place where the bear passes”. Although you’re as likely to see a bear here as you would be anywhere else in the national park. Others say it gets its name from Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who according to historians was said to have been buried near the falls.

As you make you’re way along the trail, signs point the way to the falls and as you get closer the roar of the water gets clearer and clearer. You’ll soon find a narrow path that travels away from the trail to the base of the falls.

Probably the best spot to view the Juney Whank Falls is on the foot bridge located across Juney Whank Branch. From there, you can either turn around or head on down the trail to the next junction. Though you probably want to stay around the falls for a bit.

Jonas Creek Trail

The 4.1 mile Jonas Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is an uphill hike complete with scenic views and sporadic cascades as it makes its way from the junction of the Forney Creek Trail at backcountry campsite No. 70  to the trail’s meeting with the Welch Ridge Trail.

To reach the Jonas Creek Trail, you’ll have to really be wanting to hike this section of the national park. First, hikers must travel the Forney Creek Trail to the starting point – 3.7 miles north of its junction with the Lakeshore Trail.

Hikers begin by crossing a foot log over Forney Creek and passing through backcountry campsite No. 70 – a horse camp as well. You’ll go on to cross Jonas Creek once you reach 0.4 mile on the trail. The rocks are slick and mossy so take care as you cross the stream. The trail becomes rocky on the other side and you’ll pass a majestic waterfall just to the right of the trail.

After crossing Jonas Creek a second time, you must skirt or walk through creek runoff as it flows over the trail. At this point it’s a very wet walk along the trail. You’ll cross Jonas Creek a third time but there is a rock hop to help you across.

You’ll hike across Jonas Creek a couple more times before you reach the junction with Little Jonas Creek 1.3 on the trail. You’re on the way to Welch Ridge. Some of the various trees you pass along the way include sassafras, sourwood, oak, and American beech. Yanu Branch follows the trail and you’ll eventually have to cross it by way of a foot log.

The next part of the Jonas Creek Trail is especially eye-catching so be sure you’ve packed a camera. The 100-foot cascade that comes up on the right of the trail is very notable. This is followed by a series of switchbacks that make up the trail before you start your climb up Yanu Ridge. You reach the top at the 3.4 mile marker. The finale of the Jonas Creek Trail is reached at the junction with the Welch Ridge Trail. Enjoy the Smokies!

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!

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!