Spence Field has become one of the most visited sites in the Great Smoky Mountains for its majestic views and vistas. There are a number of ways to get there including by way of the Lead Cove Trail – a 1.8 mile hike from Laurel Creek Road to the Bote Mountain Trail.
Not only does the Lead Cove Trail put you on the way to Spence Field, it also takes you by an old cabin site. To get there, by way of Big Spring Cove on Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove, keep your eye out for a trail sign on the east side of the road. There is limited parking there (under 10 spots), so fair warning.
As the upper loop of a 7-mile trail to Spence Field, which also includes the Finley Cane and Bote Mountain trails, the Lead Cove Trail starts out following Laurel Creek Road before turning into the Smoky Mountain backcountry. You’ll find hemlock, tuliptrees, and a variety of hardwoods as you move along this first part of the trail. You’ll soon cross Sugar Cove Prong as the trail continues to rise. Sugar Cove follows the trail and you’ll see the ruins of an old chimney and stone foundation soon thereafter. The cabin that at one time stood here belonged to Gibson Tipton whose family were some of the first white settlers of Cades Cove.
Continuing your ascent, several areas with prevalent wildflower growth are hiked. Wildlife including bears are said to frequent these paths because of the appearance of the wildflower squawroot. Black cherry trees are also found in this area – a favorite of bears, as well as the chestnut oak.
You’ll come upon the trail’s lone overlook as you approach the junction with the Bote Mountain Trail. In the distance, Scott Mountain makes an appearance. Hiking on, you’ll reach the Bote Mountain Trail after a few hundred yards. Enjoy your time in the Smokies!