Smoky Mountain Fall Hiking Recommendations

Fun at the Old Mill
Fall Fun At The Old Mill
September 17, 2018
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great hikes in the smokies

Would you ever imagine human beings would travel for more than miles, but across entire countries, oceans and continents just to see colors? If not, you’ve never beheld the truly awesome sight of the Smoky Mountain Fall Hiking, the Autumn color change is breathtaking. Climb to the top of any trail, ridge or any height where you can see the Appalachians stretched out for miles ahead of you and you will see sights that people from all over the world venture to see. While the globe sees Autumn and their own color changes, not everyone gets to have access to a huge mountain range with lots of hiking trails, world-class attractions and viewing opportunities all within 20 minutes driving distance to each other.

The best way to see and be absorbed in all the seasonal wonder of the Smoky Mountains Fall colors is to go hiking along the dozens of trails that are within our relevant East Tennessee region. Yes, there will be traffic along the roads and trails as the color change is highly popular between September and early November, but a little patience will go a long way to getting a near-spiritual experience in the Smokies surrounded by the Autumn bloom. Remember there are people who journey thousands of miles to get here, wait in traffic like the rest of us and then come back in the continuing years to do it again, just to hike our trails. It’s worth it!

Recommended hiking trails for Autumn are as follows:

 

Albright Grove Loop Trail 

Trail Location:     Cosby     

Roundtrip Length:     6.7 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     1475 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     440 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     3330 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • The Baxter Cabin (one-room historic cabin).
  • Historic stone walls.
  • Old-growth forest.
  • Very large tuliptree standing more than 135 feet.
  • Connects to additional trails and paths.

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Alum Cave Trail 

Trail Location:     Newfound Gap Road     

Roundtrip Length:     4.4 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     1125 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     511 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     4955 Feet     

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Plentiful rosebay rhododendron.
  • The Arch Rock landmark.
  • A heath bald that showcases views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge.
  • “The Eye of the Needle”.
  • Stairs cut into the rock ground leading to the “cave”.
  • The Alum Cave itself. Alum Cave is not really a cave, but a huge concave rock structure that is worth the excursion to see.
  • Trail has been renovated and restored in recent years.

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Andrews Bald 

Trail Location:     Clingmans Dome Area     

Roundtrip Length:     3.5 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     899 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     514 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     6310 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Spruce-fir trees dating back to the Ice Age.
  • Access to the Appalachian Trail.
  • Famous open grassy meadow where views are at their peak. Often used as a picnic spot.

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 Baskins Creek Falls 

Trail Location:     Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail     

Roundtrip Length:     3.0 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     953 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     635 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     2927 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Short, easy trail for casual hikers.
  • Views of Gatlinburg in Winter months.
  • Falls Branch – the first waterfall on the trail.
  • Baskins Cemetery.
  • The Baskins Creek waterfalls that give the trail its name.

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Bullhead Trail 

Trail Location:     Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail     

Roundtrip Length:     5.9 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     1607 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     545 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     4217 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • A heath-covered bald providing wonderful views of the mountains.
  • Views of several rock cliff faces along the trail.
  • Two small caves created by overhanging slabs of rock.
  • Connection to Mt. Leconte path.

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Grapeyard Ridge Trail

Trail Location:     Greenbrier     

Roundtrip Length:     5.8 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     980 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     338 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     2540 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Proximity to the Little Pigeon River.
  • Views of enormous mountains Mt. Chapman, Mt. Sequoia and Mt. LeConte.
  • Rhododendron Creek.
  • Old homestead sites.
  • Injun Creek with remains of old steam engine.

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Gregory Bald

Trail Location:     Cades Cove (Forge Creek Road)     

Roundtrip Length:     11.3 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     3020 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     535 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     4949 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Incredible flame azaleas that are found along the path.
  • Summit is the bald that gives it its name with many views worth the challenging climb. Cades Cove, Fontana Lake and Thunderhead Mountain are among them.
  • Backcountry site with three footbridge crossings required to get there.
  •  Blueberry patches that ripen toward the end of August and into early September.

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Little River Trail 

Trail Location:     Elkmont     

Roundtrip Length:     4.9 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     412 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     168 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     2637 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Old gravel railroad bed.
  • Proximity to Townsend Wye River.
  • Homesteads of vacation cottages that were built in the 1920s.
  • Rhododendron patches.
  • Huskey Branch Falls cascades.
  • Connects to other hiking trails.

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Mt. Cammerer 

Trail Location:     Cosby     

Roundtrip Length:     11.1 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     3045 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     549 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     5054 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Old world hardwood forest.
  • Gorgeous wildflower patches.
  • Summit overlooks dozens of miles of Appalachia and the Pigeon River Gorge.
  • Stone house fire lookout building.
  • Trail overlaps with Appalachian Trail and others.

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Porters Creek Trail 

Trail Location:     Greenbrier     

Roundtrip Length:     4.0 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     699 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     350 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     2642 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Proximity to Porter’s Creek.
  • Elbert Cantrell farmstead.
  • Historic stone walls.
  • Ownby Cemetery.
  • John Messer historic farm site.
  • Fern Branch Falls waterfalls.

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Rich Mountain Loop 

Trail Location:     Cades Cove     

Roundtrip Length:     8.5 Miles     

Total Elevation Gain:     1736 Feet     

Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:     408 Feet     

Highest Elevation:     3691 Feet

Noteworthy trail items:

  • Proximity to and views of Cades Cove.
  • Turkeys may be seen.
  • John Oliver cabin.
  • Lots of wildflowers expected. Mountain laurel, flame azalea, purple phacelia, violets, rattlesnake hawkweed, yellow ragwort, butterfly weed and more.
  • Access to Cerulean Knob, the highest point of Rich Mountain.
  • Rich Mountain Fire Tower remains.
  • Crooked Arm Falls waterfalls.

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