So what’s a good trail in the Gatlinburg area? That’s a question that gets asked countless times each year from people visiting the area. Well, if you’re looking for a good, hearty hike, let up suggest the Cove Mountain Trail – an 8.5 miler starting at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park headquarters and ascending Mount Harrison to the summit of Cove Mountain.
There are a number of spectacular views along this trail as well as a few waterfalls so be sure to pack a camera not matter what season you’re hiking in.
To say that this trail features a myriad of landscapes and sights would be selling it very short. From forests to homes and wildlife to ski resort, you’ll see it all. It’s almost man versus nature.
At 0.1 miles you come to the first cascade – Cataract Falls. It’s a small, 12-foot falls that offers some cool relief during the summer months. This is also a great place to take notice of the beautiful wildflowers that take root in the Smoky Mountain soil during the spring.
Continuing along the trail, Double Gourd Branch tumbles and rolls across the trail and onward through the mountains . Keeping walking, you’ve got at least another 8 miles of climbing ahead of you. The trail will come to parallel Dry Pond Branch before you reach an actual backyard at 1.5 miles and the park boundary.
A majestic view, like that at mile 3.1 of Mount LeConte, is just one of the highlights of this climb. The boundary comes into view again around mile 3.4 as hikers notice the chair lift to Ober Gatlinburg. You’ll see it again as you traverse Mount Harrison before finally leaving the sights of Gatlinburg all together.
Hickory Falls Branch is followed by the trail around a few turns before starting the steepest climb of this journey. The Cove Mountain Wildlife Management Area comes into focus so be wary. A lot of hunting goes on in this area of the Smokies when such things as deer and wild hog are in season. Late fall is prime season so bright colors wouldn’t be the worst thing you could pack.
It’s an easy hike from here to the top and the fire tower. If you choose, you can take a side trail to Laurel Falls or just double back to park headquarters and the Sugarlands Visitors Center.