Kephart Prong Trail

  • Kephart Prong Trail2.0 miles in length
  • Starting Points – 8.8 miles from Newfound Gap – headed toward North Carolina
  • Points of Interest – CCC Camp, Fish Hatchery, Railroad Remains, Kephart Shelter
  • Difficulty – 1-2

This is a great trail, especially if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary but still short enough to hike in one afternoon.  Along the way you will get to see some history from the early days of the GSMNP, cross some streams and even take in one of the shelters that you can reserve if you want to stay on the trail overnight.  Also, this trail is named for a very famous person:  Horace Kephart.  Kephart was one of the people that helped with the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and actually established most of the trails in the park.

Kephart Prong TrailThe trail is inclined, gradually gaining altitude as you hike.  Within the first few feet, you will cross the Oconaluftee River on a footbridge.  The trail starts out very wide, easily allowing 3-4 people to walk side by side.  The trail narrows as it continues.  Inside the first half mile yo will come upon a chimney that marks the location of an old CCC camp.  These members of the Civilian Conservation Corps helped build the infrastructure in the National Park during the 30s and 40s.

At 0.7 miles into the trail you will come to the abandon fish hatchery.  This hatchery was used by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.  The WPA helped to establish the National Park.  This hatchery helped to establish the rainbow trout population in the Smokies.  Though this trout did have adverse effects on the native brook trout, the rainbow trout did establish the Smokies as the trout fishing capital of the south.

Kephart Prong TrailIn the last mile of the trail, you will experience 4 stream crossings.  If you are unfamiliar with the term stream crossing, you are going to encounter a stream that runs across the trail.  The stream crossings vary in depth and width.  In most cases, on the trails in the Smokies, there will be some type of bridge to assist you with those crossings.  On all of the stream crossings along Kephart Prong Trail you can choose to cross them by wading across the stream or by using the bridges.  Now, these bridgesd are nothing like the footbridge that you crossed the Oconaluftee on earlier.  These are trees that have been cut in half and laid across the stream.  The logs are held in place by stonework and they have handrails in most cases.

Along the final 0.2 miles of the trail you will encounter the remains of a narrow gauge railroad from the Champion Fibre Company.  Along the side of the trail you will see the iron rails of the railroad covered in most and rusting.  This narrow gauge track system transported materials out of the mountains until the establishment of the national park.  Not wanting to spend the resources to remove the rails from the park, the iron rails have been left in the mountains to testify to a time long gone.

Abrams Falls Trail

  • 4.2 miles in length – 2.5 miles to Abrams Falls
  • Starting Points – Abrams Falls Trailhead parking area (halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Rd)
  • Points of Interest – Abrams Creek & Abrams Falls
  • Difficulty – 1

Abrams FallsWhen you are driving around Cades Cove you are going to notice a pull off the main road about halfway around, right past a bridge.  You will see a sign for Abrams Falls.  Pull into the parking area, get your hiking gear out of the car and prepare for a journey.  This is an easy hike on a well maintained trail.  The pay off, about halfway down the trail is Abrams Falls – a gorgeous waterfall and a great place to take a dip in a mountain stream.

The trail itself is great.  From the start until almost the revelation of Abrams Falls this trail is wide enough to walk side by side with your hiking buddy.  The 2.5 miles to the falls is gently rolling with no huge increases or decreases in elevation.  Remember this is not a loop trail so you are going to have to hike back out from the falls as well.  The remaining 1.7 miles to the junction with Hannah Mountain Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail is downfall and the trail is considerably more narrow.

The trail follows Abrams Creek from the trailhead where it is a wide creek to the falls were it plunges down the mountain.  The creek, at the trailhead, provides great opportunities to wade and frolic in the water.   The kids can get some of that restless energy from riding aroud the cove out as the splash each other and everybody else around them.  Further along the trail the creek offers some great chances to chase the elusive trout.  Abrams has some great fishing.  The first mile of the trail stays right next to the water and you can easily walk to the creek and cast while you hope to land that trophy trout in the Smokies.

The falls, though, is the highlight of the trail and the payoff for the hike.  The falls drops 20 feet into a huge round swimming hole.  Crystal clear, unless it has rained a lot recently, the water is cool even during the summer but after a brisk hike into the mountains it feels great whether you choose just to dip your feet in the water or go swimming.  The falls are one of those iconic images in the Smokies, being photographed thousands of times a year.  Remember though, even though the water is clear it is not safe to dive into the water at Abrams falls, serious injuries have occurred when people dove into Abrams Creek at the falls.