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Chestnut Top Trail

Trail Features: Wildflowers, Views chestnut top trail
Trail Location: Townsend
Roundtrip Length: 8.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1486 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 346 Feet
Highest Elevation: 2374 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 11.57 (strenuous)
Parking Lot Latitude 35.66055
Parking Lot Longitude -83.70892

Directions to Trailhead:

The parking lot for the Chestnut Top Trail is located about 100 yards north of the Townsend "Y" on Route 73. The parking lot is on the east side of the road, while the trailhead is located across the street.

Trail Description:

The first two-thirds of a mile on the Chestnut Top Trail is mostly a steady climb. If you're hiking during the spring, take your time during this portion of the trail, as there will be many wildflowers to enjoy. We noticed bloodroot, yellow trillium, hepatica and violets as we walked this section of trail during our most recent hike in late March.

bloodrootIn early March spring beauties are usually some of the first wildflowers to bloom on the Chestnut Top Trail. As the spring season progresses you may also find white trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, bishop's cap, purple phacelia, fire pink, plantain-leaved pussytoes, star chickweed and wild stonecrop. During the late spring and early summer period, look for hairy beard-tongue, rattlesnake hawkweed and squawroot. Many of these flowers can be found within the first couple hundred feet from the trailhead.

After completing the initial climb, roughly two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead, hikers will find a small spot at a sharp bend in the trail that will afford some decent views of Townsend towards the northwest. However, dense chestnut top trailfoliage will more than likely obstruct most of these views during the summer months.

As mentioned, the trail makes a sharp turn to the left here, and then flattens out for awhile before it begins climbing up a ridge known as Chestnut Top Lead, towards Schoolhouse Gap.

As you climb and crest the ridge you'll catch sporadic glimpses of Tuckaleechee Cove on your right, and the Smoky Mountains to your left. Most of these vantage points are a result of storm blow-downs, and at least one forest fire. Unfortunately, on the day we hiked this trail, we ran into a fair amount of fog along the ridge that blocked most of these views.

Most of the trail winds through a mixed forest, while fallen pine needles from the spruce and fir trees provide a soft footing. At 4.3 miles the trail dead-ends at the Schoolhouse Gap Trail junction, which also marks the end of this hike.