Friday, September 16, 2011

Hiking Trails In Cades Cove Area In The GSMNP Pt.2

*Hatcher Mountain
The Hatcher Mountain trail is a connector trail high above Cades Cove. To get to the Hatcher Mountain trail, you must travel one of the trails it connects to reach it's footpath. Trails associated with the Hatcher Mountain trail are located in the west-end of Cades Cove and include Abrams Falls, Little Bottoms, Beard Cane, and Cooper Road trails.
The Hatcher Mountain trail is an easy climb, gaining only seven hundred twenty feet in elevation and taking only an hour and a half to complete. One way to get to the Hatcher Mountain trail is to walk four miles from the Cades Cove floor up the Abrams Falls trail to the Abrams Falls campground.
The Hatcher Mountain trail provides a delightful departure from the more congested Cades Cove hike, the Abrams Falls trail. Though the Hatcher Mountain trail doesn't end in a splendid waterfall, it has it's own beauty and character. For this reason, many Smokies visitors wishing to hike in Cades Cove choose the Hatcher Mountain trail spur as a good alternative to continuing on the more popular and crowded Abrams Falls trail. The Hatcher Mountain trail ends when it intersects with the Cooper Road and Beard Cane trails.
Another interesting way to hike Cades Cove via the Hatcher Mountain trail is to use it as part of a loop trail that also includes the Cooper Road trail and the Little Bottoms trail. Contact officials at the Great Smoky Mountain Visitors Center at the Cades Cove campground for details.
To get to the Hatcher Mountain trail, take the Cades Cove Loop five miles just past Abrams creek to a field with a road running through it. There are a number of hikes originating from that location, so you can probably spot the right place just by seeing other cars come in and out. Drive to the rear of the field and park. Follow the signs to the Abrams Falls trail. Go 4.2 miles on the Abrams Falls trail to the Hatcher Mountain trailhead.
*Indian Grave Gap
The Indian Grave Gap hiking trail connects Rich Mountain Road with Scott Mountain trail. To hike the Indian Grave Gap trail, travel the Cades Cove Loop to Rich Mountain Road. Turn right and take Rich Mountain Road to the Indian Grave Gap trailhead. Hike across the face of Rich Mountain as far as you care to go. It is about three and a half miles to the end of the trail when it runs into the Scott Mountain hiking trail.
The last part of this Cades Cove hiking trail is significant as part of the Rich Mountain Loop trail.
*Little Bottoms
The Little Bottoms trail to Cades Cove is quite long and is not well defined. It is most suited to hikers who are experienced in hiking in the backcountry and are personally familiar with Cades Cove's trail system.
This trail is a little different than most of the hikes in this section as the destination not the origination is Cades Cove. Take US 321 from Maryville until you come to Foothill Parkway. Turn right and go to U.S. 129 and turn left. Drive a hundred yards or so and turn left on Happy Valley Road. Travel to the Happy Valley Loop Road and turn right. About a mile down the road you will find parking for the Cooper Road Trail. You must travel a short distance down the Cooper Road trail to reach the Little Bottoms hiking trail. The Cooper Road trail begins at the far end of the campground. Follow the Cooper Road Trail to the Cooper Road Backcountry campground. On the right of the Cooper Road campsite, you will find the beginning of the Little Bottoms hiking trail. Follow the Little Bottoms trail to the Abrams Falls trail and hike it down into Cades Cove. This trail is not well defined so know it is not for novices and even experienced hikers should take proper precautions. Turn around and retrace your steps if you lose the trail.
*Rabbit Creek Hiking Trail
Although Cades Cove's Rabbit Creek trail goes to Mill Creek, Andy McCully Ridge, Rabbit Creek Backcountry campground, Scott Gap, Pine Mountain, Abrams Creek and a ranger station, some feel this hike has no particular features. Perhaps that is true when compared with some trails that feature high mountain meadows with their splendid views of Cades Cove, but what this hike lacks in exciting destination, it makes up in solitude. The Rabbit Creek hike features virgin stands of hemlocks, oak and pine with varied terrain running along ridges and hollows.
Rabbit Creek follows the path of a road that once was used to get in and out of Cades Cove. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service maintains this road as a hiking trail. To get to Rabbit Creek trail, follow the Cades Cove Loop Road to the back of the cove, about five miles. You will cross Abrams Creek and then take a right through a field. Drive to the rear of the field and park. There will be a path and signs pointing out several hikes, one of which is the Rabbit Creek Hiking Trail.
*Rich Mountain Loop Trail
Rich Mountain Loop trail offers a peaceful hike with May blooming mountain laurel and excellent fall color, not to mention many views of the Cades Cove and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains. The trail is flat in the beginning as it follows an old roadbed which tracks near the Oliver cabin.
You will notice many fields cleared on this end of Cades Cove. The fields that were cleared by the pioneers would have been reclaimed by forest were it not for efforts of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service which keeps some fields in Cades Cove clear to show Smokies visitors how the cove looked during the 1800's.
The Rich Mountain Loop trail is a moderately difficult hike, following three of the many Indian trails in Cades Cove to make a loop. The Rich Mountain Loop trailhead is a short distance down Cades Cove Loop Road from the parking and information area.
To follow the Rich Mountain Loop, begin at the trailhead of the Rich Mountain Loop trail. After walking one half mile you will need too veer left at the junction with the Crooked Arm Ridge trail to stay on Rich Mountain Loop trail. After a good bit of walking--two and a half miles, you will next go right when the Rich Mountain Loop trail intersects the Indian Grave Gap trail. Hike about one mile on the Indian Grave Gap trail and then go right on the Crooked Arm Ridge trail. In about two miles the Crooked Arm trail will intersect with the Rich Mountain trail one half mile from the beginning of the hike. The Rich Mountain Loop trail is 8.5 miles long and accommodates both horses and hikers.
*Rich Mountain Trail
Down the Cades Cove Loop and up the Rich Mountain Road are three trails, one of them the Rich Mountain Trail. The Rich Mountain trail has a couple of alternatives. The first alternative begins at the trailhead on Rich Mountain Road on the north side of Cades Cove and descends to the Indian Grave Gap trail. That is actually the end of the Rich Mountain trail, a distance of slightly over two miles. Once you reach Indian Gap trail, the first alternative is to turn around and hike the two plus miles back up the mountain to your car. The Rich Mountain trail offers peace and quiet, beautiful forests and the lovely cascades on Hesse Creek.
*Rich Mountain Trail Alternatives:
If you are hiking with a friend and come in two cars you have a couple of alternatives when hiking the Rich Mountain trail. To utilize them one person needs to leave their car at the parking area for the Rich Mountain Loop trail that is near the beginning of the Cades Cove Loop. Next both of you drive up Rich Mountain to the Rich Mountain trailhead. Hike the Rich Mountain trail down to the Indian Gap trail. At this point you can turn either left or right on Indian Gap.
Left on Indian Gap trail:
If you turn left on the Indian Gap trail, take a right at the Crooked Arm Ridge trail. Hike Crooked Arm Ridge trail down to the Rich Mountain Loop trail, bearing left. That will take you back to the Cades Cove Loop Road close to the Rich Mountain Loop trail.
Right on Indian Gap trail:
If you turn right on the Indian Gap, turn left onto the Rich Mountain Loop trail and hike it all the way down to the Cades Cove Loop Road. You will see the trailhead and your friend’s car.
*Russell Field
As its name implies, Russell Field trail ends on one of the mountaintop balds, Russell Field. The balds were important in early Cades Cove life as they were used by early frontiersmen and farmers for the grazing of cattle. Other fields used for this purpose are Gregory's Bald and Spence Field. All three are high on the mountaintops overlooking Cades Cove and have one or more hiking trails leading to them.
The Russell Field Trailhead is in the Cades Cove picnic area, just before the Cades Cove Loop Road. The trail winds through old growth hemlocks and follows the left prong of Anthony Creek. Along the way this Smoky Mountain trail goes by ideal campsites for those planning to camp in GSMNP. Once you reach the summit of Russell Field the view is wonderful, but some Smokies visitors are disappointed that trees obscure some of the view of the Cades Cove floor. These trees were not present in the 1800's. Fewer trees allowed for more grass for the cattle and more views of the surrounding area for those tending the cattle. Though the Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials are allowing some of the trees to grow back, they are still committed to maintaining most of the bald as a historical field.
*Scott Mountain
About two miles above the Cades Cove Loop, at the intersection of Indian Gap and Crooked Arm Ridge trails, the Scott Mountain trail begins, ascends and eventually descends approximately three and a half miles to the Schoolhouse Gap trail. This trails greatest feature is that of solitude as it takes you on a hike away from Cades Cove. The Scott Mountain trails greatest drawback is that you must hike miles before reaching it's beginning.
To reach the Scott Mountain trail, take the Cades Cove Loop Road to the trailhead of the Rich Mountain Loop trail, which is near the orientation shelter at the beginning of the cove. Walk one half mile up the Rich Mountain Loop trail and bear right on the Crooked Arm Ridge trail. Two and a half to three miles up the Crooked Arm Ridge trail there will be an intersection with the Scott Mountain trail. Turn right onto it. Keep in mind when choosing a hike in Cades Cove that a difficult day of hiking is six to eight miles for most people in good shape and that this hike together with the effort to reach it is about seven miles one way.
*Wet Bottom
Used as a horse trail, the Wet Bottom Trail is one of Cades Cove's shortest hikes with only one hundred forty feet altitude gain. To get to this hike, take the Cades Cove Loop Road five miles. After crossing Abrams Creek, turn right on a gravel road that runs through a grassy field. Park at the back of the field where there are signs posted. Walk into the forest one tenth of a mile. There you will find a wooden bridge that crosses Abrams Creek. Continue to follow the signs for the Wet Bottom Creek trail.
The Wet Bottom trail follows Abrams Creek and can be, as its name implies, a bit marshy. All of the low-lying areas in the far end of Cades Cove are prone to be water logged. The early settlers avoided building their farms in the marshy end but did use its cane breaks to protect their cattle in the wintertime. Eventually, people also settled even the marshy end of Cades Cove. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park service preserved one of their homesteads, the Elijah Oliver Place. If you want, follow the signs near the beginning of the Wet Bottom trail to take a side trip to see Elijah Oliver's homestead before continuing on the Wet Bottom trail as far as you like. When you think you've gone far enough turn around and retrace your steps back to the parking area and the Cades Cove Loop.

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