The hike to the summit of Cucumber Gap is a relatively easy 2.4 mile hike in the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains with numerous chances to see spring wildflowers.
To reach the trail, traveling along Little River Road take the turn toward Elkmont and the national park ranger station. Take the left to the campground and park near the sign for the Little River Trail. You’ll hike the Little River Trail for 2.3 miles before coming to the intersection with the Cucumber Gap Trail. In all, it’s a 5.5 mile loop of you include the Little River Trail and the Jakes Creek Trail.
This trail was a big part of the Little River Lumber Company in its heyday during the 1920s and you can tell by the railroad bed or old logging road along the trail. Huskey Branch is crossed 0.3 miles into the trail which may be forded by stepping stones. Just be wary for high water following rain showers. You’ll cross two other branches that are unnamed before reaching the summit of Cucumber Gap.
Fraser magnolias, sometimes referred to as “cucumber trees” can be seen near the top of the gap and is more than likely where the trail gets its name from. Hikers will notice Burnt Mountain through the trees once they reach Cucumber Gap at mile 1.4. This is a great place to take various wildflower pictures in the spring as violets, hepatica, and others bloom here during those months.
From here, it’s a gradual, easy descent into a multiple species forest. Tulip Branch is crossed by hikers on the way down before coming to the trail’s conclusion at the Jakes Creek trail junction.