When you look at the Gunter Fork Trail on a map, it can take you aback at the trail’s steep climb, but when you realize it’s only a 4.1 mile hike in the Smokies, it doesn’t seem that bad, even for the novice hiker.
This route starts out at the junction with Camel Gap Trail and finishes at the intersection with the Balsam Mountain Trail. You’ll actually start out on the Big Creek Trail and hike for 6.1 miles to reach the Gunter Fork Trail. It’s a great trail to take if you want to see some Smoky Mountain cascades and do some creek hopping in the process.
The name of the spot that the Gunter Fork Trail begins is called Walnut Bottom. If you’re looking at a map of the park, it’s just past backcountry campsite No. 36. To say that the Gunter Fork Trail offer nature lovers a smorgasbord of appealing qualities would be putting it about right. Streams, cascades, views and vistas, many types of plants, trees, and animals can be found along this trail which is another reason it has become so popular.
You’ll cross Big Creek once you’re on the trail. You might even see if you can spot some Smoky Mountain trout if you decide to hang around a bit before walking on. Gunter Fork is crossed at 0.3 miles in before ascending again through the forest, then again at the 0.9 mile mark. A beautiful pool is reached by way of a side trail at 1.4 miles and then you come to the previously mentioned cascade at 1.8 miles – 150 feet high.
The trail’s last creek crossing is made soon after and then you begin a series of switchbacks. You’ll continue your steep ascent of Balsam Mountain. This is a great place to be in the middle of fall as the foliage in this area as countless people have referred to it as “magnificent” and “breathtaking” as well as other synonymous words. You reach the crest of Balsam Mountain at 4.1 miles, as well as the meeting point with the Balsam Mountain Trail. The Laurel Gap Shelter lies 1.1 miles to your left. Enjoy the Smokies!