Jun 26, 2012 at 7:27 am #1291398
I've searched through a few threads here and I've been looking at my nat geo map. Its a little overwhelming to be honest, so many options. I've always avoided the Smokies because of the permit system but I feel like its time to give it a shot. We will be heading up from South Carolina. So a trailhead on the east side of the park would make the most sense. I am pretty open to mileage but would like to do some ridgeline walking. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.Jun 26, 2012 at 7:58 am #1890184
There are a lot of options, but I would consider the Big Creek trailhead. Its just off I-40 and gets you on some high ridgelines pretty quickly. From Big Creek, you can go right up the AT. Do not skip the side trail to Mt. Cammerer. Its really nice. There is another ridgeline to the south of the AT. That ridge includes Mt. Sterling(with a metal tower you can climb) and Cataloochie. You can connect over to that ridge and do a nice loop back to Big Creek. There are several options: Swallow Fork, Gunther Fork, and I forget the others. Pick whichever you want based on how far you want to go. Gunther Fork was closed due to a landslide last time I was there but was still easily passable.
There are several good loops out of Cosby too. Its also pretty easy access for you.
There are some nice loops off of Clingman's dome too but that will be a lot more traffic and time in the car.
Remember there are a lot of horse trails. They are not usually as nice as the non-horse trails. Cataloochie is close to you but is all horse territory.
Enjoy.Jun 26, 2012 at 8:14 am #1890193
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Good options from Ben.
I wouldn't be too concerned about entering from Cataloochie and the horses. Activity at the bottom around the trailhead, but I rarely see many on the trails in this area. Couple options:
From Cat. TH:
– Pretty Hollow, (Little Cat/Long Bunk/Mt Sterling) and (Palmer/Balsam) all over good options to access the ridge trails.
– Mt Sterling Ridge and Balsam Mtn and AT offer great ridge hiking. I rarely see anyone on the Balsam Mtn trail.
– Laurel Gap Shelter (remodeled) and TriCorner are both really nice shelters. Pick the right nights and you might have them by yourself.
– Mt Sterling campsite is nice
– Campsite 29 is not very level , but nice stream
– Campsite 36 and 37 are nice but usually crowded
Brad Rogers is the expert for this area. He will probably respond to the thread at some point.
BradJun 26, 2012 at 8:55 am #1890211
Glad to hear the horse traffic is low around there, Brad. I have kept away from that trailhead because I had heard there was a lot of horse traffic. Well, that and the fact that there are a lot of closer trailheads for me. I will consider going in that way on future trips.Jun 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm #1890357
Thanks guys for the suggestions. I'll have to pull out the map when I get to house and look it over.Jun 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm #1890650
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
I have only done the trails up to Mt Sterling Ridge trail (Palmer Creek, Pretty Hollow and Little Cat/Long Bunk. Horse traffic heavy around the trailhead and maybe for .5 – 1 mile. Have seen horses once or twice around Laurel Gap Shelter. However I haven't done anything on the opposite side of the road (Southeast): Rough Fork, Big Fork, Caldwell, Hemphill, etc. Those might have more horse traffic.
Little Cat. Trail has some nice history (old homes, church and graveyard). If you are into that it is worth the hiking the trail. These trails also allow you to make some nice loops.
BradJul 2, 2012 at 11:37 am #1891621
Thanks for the info Brad. That is one of the few areas of the park that I have not explored much.
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