Just outside Gatlinburg, Tn you’ll find the Jakes Creek Trail, a short hike in the Smokies that takes visitors into the national park and gives them the option of using one of the many backcountry camping sites located throughout the park. In all, it’s 3.3 mile hike from Jakes Creek Road to Jakes Gap.
To get to the trailhead, start out at the Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg and take Little River Road traveling west. Take the turn into Elkmont at mile 4.9 then turn left toward the Jakes Creek Trail just before you reach campground. Keep right and park near the gate.
The Jakes Creek Trail follows the old railroad route that once ran up Jakes Creek built by the Little River Lumber Company. Once past the gate, the gravel road snakes through a forest of maples and tulip trees, as well as various other Smoky Mountain plants.
Once you’ve hiked 0.3 miles, you’ll notice that the Cucumber Gap Trail veers off to the left and at mile 0.4 the Meigs Mountain Trail takes a right. Hikers will cross Waterdog Branch 1.2 miles in by a foot log bridge. From there, the trail continues to rise before descending across Newt Prong. Be especially cautious on this portion of the trail during rainy weather.
Hikers will reach backcountry campsite No. 27 at 2.6 miles on the trail. It’s actually bordered by the trail on one side of the campsite, and the creek on the other side. This particular backcountry site gets quite a bit of use in the spring and summer months due to its close proximity to town. There’s enough room for eight campers and their horses here.
Continuing on the trail, you’ll notice that the creek soon disappears and you reach Jakes Gap at mile 3.3 – the conclusion of the Jakes Creek Trail. From here, there are two paths to choose from: the Panther Creek Trail which leads down to the Middle Prong Trail, or Miry Ridge which leads left and travels to its meeting with the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the Smokies!