Chestnut Top Trail
|Trail Features:||Wildflowers, Views|
|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 area 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.
The first two-thirds of a mile of 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. During our late March hike we noticed bloodroot, yellow trillium, hepatica and violets as we walked along this stretch of trail.
In early March spring beauties are usually some of the first wildflowers to bloom along 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.
Roughly two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead, just after completing this initial climb, hikers will find an opening at a sharp bend in the trail that offers some decent views of Townsend towards the northwest. However, dense foliage will more than likely obstruct much of the view during the summer months.
After making a sharp turn towards the left, the trail flattens out for a short distance, before it begins climbing towards Schoolhouse Gap along a ridge known as Chestnut Top Lead.
As you climb and crest the ridge you'll catch sporadic glimpses of Tuckaleechee Cove on your right, and the Smoky Mountains towards the left. Most of these vantage points are the 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 that blocked most of our views.
Most of the trail travels through a mixed forest, while fallen pine needles from spruce and fir trees provide a soft footing. At 4.3 miles the trail dead-ends at the Schoolhouse Gap Trail junction. This also marks the end point for this hike.