The Chestnut Branch Trail is one of your shorter Smoky Mountain hikes at 2.1 miles, but if you’re looking to take pictures of some great old home sites in the Smokies, this is a great hike to do it on.
Hikers start out at the junction with Big Creek Road and walk until they come to the intersection with the Appalachian Trail. The trailhead can be found at the Big Creek Ranger Station, 2.3 miles from Interstate 40 exit 451.
There is a large parking area at the Big Creek Ranger Station which makes this trail extremely easy to access.
Once an old logging road, Chestnut Branch was home to around nine residents before the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Much of the forest surrounding the trail has since reclaimed those former homesteads, though as you walk along the trail you can see the remnants of rock walls, fence posts, and various metal artifacts.
The trail makes a steady ascension and you’ll be able to make out such things as a metal washtub at 0.3 miles along the trail. This was one of those old home sites. These washtubs and other artifacts are protected by federal law and are to be left untouched.
Just past another home site at mile 1.1 the trail parallels a stream and you’ll notice cascades flowing over a number of mossy stones. A second switchback appears as you ascend the ridge.
A tuliptree cove is reached once you’ve hiked 1.7 miles before reaching the junction with the Appalachian Trail at mile 2.1.