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15 Loop Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

On at least two separate occasions in recent months, I've read a hiker complaining in a forum about a lack of loop trails in the Smoky Mountains. It's possible that these individuals were referring to the lack of park designated loops. If that's the case, then those people might have a point. However, there are many loop hikes that can be created by simply linking together multiple trails - in all areas of the park.


Many day hikers prefer to hike loops because it gives you "more bang for your buck" if your hiking time is limited. In addition to seeing more terrain, you also have the opportunity to see more of the features the Smokies has to offer, such as wildflowers, waterfalls or historic home sites.


Below is a list of 15 loop hike options I developed of varying length, and in different areas of the park. There are many other loops that can be created for people wishing to hike more miles, or for people wishing to put together a backpacking trip.


Tennessee Side Loop Hikes 

Cucumber Gap / Little River Trail
Trailhead: Elkmont
Length: 5.6 miles
Trail Features: Historic Elkmont cottages, wildflowers, hike along stream

Finley Cane / Bote Mountain / Lead Cove
Trailhead: Laurel Creek Road (about 5.5 miles from the Townsend "Y"
Length: 7 miles
Trail Features: Quiet walk in woods, old homestead sites and sporadic views of surrounding mountains

Rich Mountain Loop
Trailhead: Main Cades Cove parking area
Length: 8.5 miles
Trail Features: John Oliver cabin, wildflowers, sporadic views of Cades Cove and Tuckaleechee Cove

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The best source for trail information in the Smoky Mountains

Deep Creek/Indian Creek/Deep Creek Loop Trailhead: Deep Creek
Length: 4.6 miles
Trail Features: Waterfalls and wildflowers

Smokemont Loop Trail / Bradley Fork
Trailhead: Smokemont Campground
Length: 6.2 miles
Trail Features: Wildflowers and a walk along the Bradley Fork

Russell Field / Spence Field
Trailhead: Anthony Creek Trailhead in the Cades Cove Picnic Area Length: 13.3 miles
Trail Features: Panoramic views from Spence Field, abundant mountain laurel

Wet Bottom / Cooper Road / Hatcher Mountain / Abrams Falls
Trailhead: Cades Cove Visitor Center
Length: 13.4 miles
Trail Features: Abrams Falls, solitude (other than the section to the falls)

Rainbow Falls / Mt. LeConte / Bullhead
Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard Loop
Length: 14.1 miles
Trail Features: Spectacular views from the summit of Mt. LeConte, Rainbow Falls Ehighest falls in park

Lower Mt. Cammerer /Appalachian Trail / Low Gap
Trailhead: Cosby Campground
Length: 15.5 miles
Trail Features: Spectacular views, Historic Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower

North Carolina Side Loop Hikes

Goldmine Loop Trail
Trailhead: Lakeshore Drive Tunnel
Length: 3.8 miles
Trail Features: Fontana Lake, remains of an old home site

Twentymile Trail / Twentymile Loop / Wolf Ridge
Trailhead: Twentmile (west of Fontana Village)
Length: 7.6 miles
Trail Features: Mountain streams and a small waterfall

Caldwell Fork / Boogerman Trail
Trailhead: Cataloochee Campground
Length: 7.4 miles
Trail Features: Old growth forest, picturesque streams and falls, and the remains of early settler's home sites

Cooper Creek / Deeplow Gap / Thomas Divide / Mingus Creek

Trailhead: Cooper Creek Trailhead (north of Ela, NC)
Length: 11.1 miles
Trail Features: Waterfalls and sporadic views of surrounding mountains

Appalachian Trail / Shuckstack / Lost Cove / Lakeshore Trail
Trailhead: Fontana Dam
Length: 12 miles
Trail Features: Shuckstack Fire Tower, spectacular views of Fontana Lake, remnants of old home sites

Hemphill Bald / Caldwell Fork / Rough Fork
Trailhead: Polls Gap (near Balsam Mountain Campground)
Length: 13.7 miles
Trail Features: Outstanding views of the Cataloochee Valley