The Cold Spring Gap Trail is another wildflower trail in the Smokies best hiked in the Spring if at all possible. In all, it’s a 3.5 mile trail from its junction with the Hazel Creek Trail to the intersection with the Welch Ridge Trail.
To reach the trailhead, it’s a 6.7 mile hike from backcountry campsite No. 86 on Fontana Lake in western North Carolina near Bryson City.
The Cold Spring Gap Trail is considered more of a connector trail and follows Cold Spring Branch for much of its length. With a number of crossovers, be wary during rainy days. You’ll notice some rusted auto parts at 0.3 miles into the trail. Hazel Creek widens to about 10 feet at this point so be ready to cross it, or ready your horse. The creek’s sandy bottom is said to be the safest way, escuing the rocks.
You’ll climb a switchback after crossing the creek and pass some old home sites before crossing Cold Spring Branch at 1.2 miles. Notice the rock wall soon thereafter before more switchbacks.
A rocky, muddy trail awaits as the hiker ascends the next portion of the trail, crossing Cold Spring a number of times. Be sure to take notice of the wildflowers around here during the spring months.
You’ll reach elevations of 4,500 feet between Welch Bald and High Rocks. Hikers come to the Welch Ridge Trail soon, where it descends 7.3 miles from the AT.