Looking for a great hike where you can see the Smoky Mountain fall foliage in all its glory? Try the Ace Gap Trail which travels 5.6 miles from Rich Mountain Road to Beard Cane Trail.
The trailhead is close to Cades Cove which is a good thing for all those visitors who come to the park either looking for the entrance or Cades Cove – two of the more known locales of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can access Rich Mountain Road from the Cades Cove Loop Road.
At the trailhead along Rich Mountain Road, hikers will notice a large sinkhole – evidence of the abundance of limestone in the area. Once you start, you’ll notice a side trail to the Bull Cave. Only hikers with special permits and equipment can enter the Bull Cave as it descends 420 feet. It was given the name Bull Cave as Rich Mountain Road was at one time a cattle passage and legend has it a bull fell into the cave, thus the Bull Cave.
Large growth oak trees align the start of the Ace Gap Trail, which is considered one of the park’s easier trail as it runs nearly level throughout the 5.6 miles. If you look closely at the white pines on the left of the trail you’ll notice the lightning scar on one that runs the length of its trunk.
Hikers will reach Kelly Gap at 2.3 miles. Further hiking brings you along a ridge line before you reach the Beard Cane Trail. In May, numerous Pink Lady’s Slippers give the higher a “How do you do?” upon reaching the Beard Cane Trailhead.
You’ll be able to distinctly tell when you’ve reached Ace Gap at 4.8 miles by the old railroad bed that crosses the trail. This was the property of the Little River Lumber Company during its heyday. It is said that Ace Gap gets its name from the timbermen who gathered to play cards at this spot during their break.