Friday, September 16, 2011

Hiking Trails In Cades Cove Area In The GSMNP

*Abrams Falls
The Abrams Falls hike begins at a field at stop number ten on the Cades Cove loop. The waters at the destination of this hike, Abrams Falls, make an interesting 20-foot drop to the pool and stream below. The path from the Cades Cove valley floor to the falls high above roughly follows Abrams Creek. The hiking trail weaves up and down, back and forth along the ridges surrounding that end of Cades Cove. Though the hike to the falls is relatively short, for most Smokies Visitors the hike is challenging but rewarding. The walk to Abrams Falls trail is definitely well worth the effort up and down the ridges as attested by the trails popularity--nearly 1000 visitors per day in peak season.
On the Abrams Falls trail, the Smokies visitors gets to enjoy the majesty of the Smoky Mountains, rhododendron lined footpaths, as well as the twenty-foot Abrams Falls. The total hike is five miles in length (roundtrip) and climbs approximately three hundred and forty feet up the mountains of Cades Cove.
To get to the Abrams Falls trailhead, go five miles on the Cades Cove Loop Road and after crossing Abrams Creek, turn right on a gravel road which runs through a grassy field. Park at the back of the field where there are signs and a marvelous wooden bridge that mark the beginning of the hike.
*Ace Gap
The Ace Gap hike is one of the most peaceful trails that Cades Cove has to offer. It is about five and a half miles in length, without much altitude gain or loss. In the month of May, parts of the Ace Gap trail are strewn with pink Lady's Slippers. All wildflowers in Cades Cove are protected by law and may be admired and photographed, not picked or dug.
The trailhead to Ace Gap trail is down Cades Cove loop and up Rich Mountain Road. Near the trailhead, Smokies hikers pass Bull Cave, the largest cave in Cades Cove. The bottom of the cave is fully five hundred feet from the surface almost straight down.
Smokies hikers on the Ace Gap trail will ascend from the Cades Cove floor past the mouth of the cave. Once beyond the cave, the trail meanders five miles along the ridges of Rich Mountain to the place known as Ace Gap. Ace Gap was so named for card playing loggers that once congregated there. You will know you have come to Ace Gap when you come to an old railroad bed. Logging trains once clacked along railroad tracks all over Cades Cove during the expansion of the United States. Cades Cove and many other parts of the country yielded up virgin forests while filling a seemingly endless demand for lumber for homes, buildings and bridges. The trains which once traveled along the Ace Gap track were owned by the Little River Lumber Company and carried equipment, loggers and logs through Cades Cove.
*Anthony Creek Trail
The Anthony Creek Trail starts at the beginning of the Cades Cove in the picnic area and goes three and a half miles up Bote Mountain for a 3000 altitude gain. Hikers should anticipate the need for water as this can be a strenuous hike. Despite the difficulty of the hike, Smokies visitors using the Anthony Creek trail enjoy beautiful scenery as well as wonderful views from Spence Field and Rocky Top, both locations being important in Cades Cove history. To get to Spence Field and Rocky Top you travel the Anthony Creek Trail to the Bote Mountain Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
Anthony Creek Trail also features the headwaters of Anthony Creek. The popular Cades Cove trail also goes by the horse camp, a delight to horsemen as well as goes by backcountry camp sites. Due in part to the location of the trailhead, the Anthony Creek Trail is one of the most traveled in Cades Cove.
*Beard Cane
Beard Cane trail is named for a cane variety which grows locations in Cades Cove where the terrain is moist. The Beard Cane trail is one of a few relatively flat trails in Cades Cove and for that reason it is wonderfully suitable for an amble in the woods. An easy hike that takes the Smokies visitor down the hollow between Beard Cane and Hatcher mountains, the Beard Cane trail is known for being beautifully strewn with wildflowers and flowering shrubs such as polygala, trillium, rhododendron, and dog-hobble. Overhead trees such as oak, tulip, hemlock and maple trees canopy this Cades Cove hike. Try not to go after a rain however as the Beard Cane Trail, can be very muddy after rains.
*Bote Mountain
During the 1800's, James Spence tended the Cades Cove farmer’s cattle in an awe-inspiring mountain meadow. Eventually the meadow became known as Spence Field. Hikers who take the Bote Mountain trail and hike all the way to the Spence Field will do so through intermittently rocky terrain and rhododendron covered footpaths.
On the climb up the Bote Mountain trail, Smokies hikers can envision James Spence and the Cades Cove farmer’s cattle he tended climbing the slopes in yesteryear. Driving the cattle on such a climb must have been difficult, but the grass at the higher elevations made the effort worthwhile. Nutritionally, the high mountain grass was better for the cattle than that found on the Cades Cove valley floor. In addition, the cattle faired better at the higher location due to a considerable reduction in heat and flies.
Many a Smokies hiker who hiked up the Bote Mountain trail has come to look upon James Spence as a lucky man, for he spent so much of his life overlooking Cades Cove from his mountain paradise. From Spence Field today, trees are cleared so those Smokies hikers see Cades Cove, Lake Fontana, Rocky Top and other notable landmarks of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. By reason of its view alone, Bote Mountain trail is one of the most rewarding to originate in Cades Cove.
*Cades Cove Nature Trail
The Cades Cove Nature Trail is particularly beautiful in the spring when the dogwoods bloom and also in the Fall when the sourwoods and maples turn a beautiful red. This Smokies trail one of the best hikes for those who want to stretch their legs, learn about Cades Cove via brochure, and yet not get tired out.
On the Cades Cove Nature trail you can see what remains of what was once a thick chestnut grove in the 1800's. Almost one third of the forest surrounding Cades Cove's was made up of Chestnut trees at that time. Chestnut groves were used so advantageously by both Cades Cove mountain farmers and wildlife alike. Now only chestnut sprouts grow from the vast chestnut root system of the giant trees which were once plentiful in Cades Cove. Today the large trees growing along the Cades Cove Nature Trail are primarily oak, dogwood, sourwood, and pine trees.
*Cane Creek
Cane Creek trail is one of the easiest Cades Cove trails to get to but involves hiking part way up the Cooper Road Trail to get there. The Cane Creek hike is only two miles long and goes through the Cane Creek bottoms (lowlands). The trail goes through land that was once farmed by the Buchanan family but has reforested over time. Features of this hike include eastern Hemlocks and hardwood trees, the Buchanan family cemetery, and a very pleasant, lightly used campsite at Cane Creek. Be aware that many low lying trails are often muddy.
*Cooper Road
Cooper Road trail offers the Smoky Mountain hiker and horseback rider solitude and an easy path. The trail goes to the park boundary about ten miles away from the trailhead.
Ifyou hike or ride the Cooper Road trail in Cades Cove, you will follow in the footsteps European descent pioneers and Native Americans alike as the Cooper Road trail follows a Smoky Mountain Indian trail that was later improved into a road in the 1830's. Daniel Foute made a white man who obtained great sections in Cades Cove and then sold it to the settlers the improvements a white man who obtained great sections in Cades Cove and then sold it to the settlers. In the 1840's, the road was renamed for Joe Cooper who improved the road for wagon travel in the cove. Cooper road was the best way to for pioneers who lived in the west part of the cove to get through the Smokies to Maryville.
*Crib Gap Trail
Crib Gap trail is actually a horse track that may also be used by people who want a short hike in Cades Cove. Crib Gap was once the main entrance into Cades Cove from Big Spring Cove on the other side of the mountain. Now only GSMNP trails come through the area, one of which is Crib Gap trail.
Crib Gap trail begins on the left side of the Cades Cove Picnic ground and ends as it crosses the Turkeypen Ridge Trail, approximately one and a half miles away. The beginning of Crib Gap trail follows Anthony Creek. As are all the lowlands in Cades Cove, the part of the trail by Anthony Creek is a bit muddy. Hemlocks, so common in the Smoky Mountains grow thickly along the creek but as the trail rises, the hiker climbs to a much dryer pine and oak forest.
*Gregory Bald Hiking Trail
Gregory Bald is a high meadow that was used in the summer for cattle grazing by the Cades Cove farmers. There are several trails that go to Gregory Bald. This particular trail affords a steady four and a half mile climb to the bald through pine and hardwood forest.
On the way to Gregory's Bald, Smokies hikers will go through Sam's Gap, Panther Gap, and Sheep Pen Gap Backcountry Campsite. From Gregory's bald there are magnificent views of Cades Cove as well as other surrounding landmarks. The Gregory Bald trail continues past the mountain meadow until it ends at the Appalachian Trail. Ambitious Smokies visitors can hike on to the Appalachian Trail, however keep in mind it is seven and a half miles from the trailhead. A hard days hike is eight to ten miles, so going all the way to the Appalachian trail and back is definitely not a day hike.
To get to the Gregory Bald trail, go down the Cades Cove Loop to the Visitor Center at Cable Mill and follow the signs to Parsons Branch Road. Sam's Gap where the Gregory Bald Hiking Trail begins is five miles down Parsons Branch Road.
*Gregory Ridge Hiking Trail
At the Cades Cove Visitor Center take Forge Creek Road until you come to the end. Here you will find one of several trails up to Gregory's Bald. The hike features Gregory's Bald, virgin forest with huge tulip trees, flame azaleas and the highly used campsite number thirteen. Gregory's Bald is one of the high mountain meadows where Cades Cove farmers took their cattle to escape summer heat and flies. Gregory Ridge trail will take seven or eight hours to complete, so be prepared for an arduous hike should you choose it. It may be the most arduous hike in Cades Cove.
Gregory Ridge Trail is a good choice if you want your hike’s destination to have a good view of Cades Cove. So many Smokies visitors hike up the Gregory's Ridge trail for that reason, that it is one of the most popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The trail winds through some of the best of GSMNP, delightful old growth forest and azalea covered Gregory's Bald. In azalea season the experience of Gregory's bald is unmatched, for it is ablaze with breathtaking masses of orange and wine colored blooms, but in the days of old, Cades Cove farmers used to graze their cattle on Gregory's bald, cattle being one of their best cash crops.
To get to the Gregory Ridge trailhead, turn right out of the Cable Mill area parking lot and proceed to Parson Branch road. The parking area marked Gregory Ridge Trail is about five miles down at Sam's Gap. Gregory Ridge trail is one of Cades Cove's most strenuous climbs being four and a half miles up the mountain, but it is well worth the effort.
*Hannah Mountain
The Hannah Mountain trail runs high along a ridge over Cades Cove beginning at Sam's gap and continuing nine and a half miles to Abrams Creek. As eight to ten miles is a very long hike for most people, you probably won't hike the entire Hannah Mountain trail unless you are a serious backpacker used to camping in the back country of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This trail is known for it's beautiful views of Cades Cove from the grazing land on the crest of Hannah Mountain. One of the notable features of the Cades Cove trail is an enormous tulip tree two miles from the trailhead. It stands majestically on the right, measuring ten feet in circumference. The Hannah Mountain trail has an enjoyable atmosphere, good even footing and historical significance.
Long before the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was formed, Cherokee Indians working for Daniel Foute dug Hannah Mountain trail in the 1840’s. He was the owner of the Montvale Resort on Chilhowee Mountain. Foute's purpose in building the trail was to connect his resort to beautiful Gregory's Bald. His trail to Gregory's Bald was a powerful draw for his resort, especially when the azaleas were blooming in the meadows above Cades Cove. The popularity of the Hannah Mountain trail was in part responsible for the resorts long life, bringing Smokies tourists to the mountain meadows of Cades Cove for better than one hundred years.
To get to Hannah Mountain trail you must take the Cades Cove Loop past Cable Mill area. Follow the signs to Forge Creek Road that runs into Parson Branch Road. Travel approximately four miles to the trailhead.

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