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out-under-sky-of-great-smokies
Out Under the Sky of the Great Smokies by Harvey Broome brings together the personal journals of a great environmentalist and nature writer. The book combines descriptions of Broome's innumerable hikes in the Smokies over several decades with extended meditations on the meaning of the mountains to the region as a whole.

Sugarland Mountain Trail (upper)

Trail Features: Views, Solitude, Old Growth Forest sugarland mountain
Trail Location: Clingmans Dome Road
Roundtrip Length: 7.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1090 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 311 Feet
Highest Elevation: 5987 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 9.18 (moderate)
Parking Lot Latitude 35.59036
Parking Lot Longitude -83.46939


Directions to Trailhead:

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 13.2 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome Road. Turn right onto Clingmans Dome Road and drive another 3.6 miles to the parking area for the Fork Ridge Trail on the left side of the road. Across the street, on the right side of the road, will be a sign that reads "Appalachian Trail". This is a short access trail that will take you to the Appalachian Trail, which in a short distance will lead you to the Sugarland Mountain Trail.

From Cherokee, drive 20 miles north to reach Clingmans Dome Road.


Trail Description:

As mentioned above, take the short access trail across the road to reach the Appalachian Trail. Upon reaching the AT, turn left. Less than one-third of a mile later you'll reach the Sugarland Mountain Trail junction. In a short distance, roughly 0.6 miles from the road, hikers will pass the Mt. Collins backcountry shelter. The shelter and the nearby mountain are named after Robert Collins, an Oconaluftee resident who guided Arnold Guyot across the crest of the Smokies in the late 1850s.

During the first mile or so, the path leads through a lush-green, spruce-fir forest, while traversing over a fairly rocky trail bed. During our hike in early May we saw a fair amount of spring beauty, trout-lily and Wake Robin along this section of the trail.

sugarland-mountain-trail sugarland-mountain-view

At just over a mile the trail begins to climb again. You'll start to notice the ridge narrowing as you continue to gain altitude. From this point forward intermittent breaks in the foliage will provide you with partial views of the surrounding mountains on either side of the trail.

Roughly 2.3 miles from Clingmans Dome Road the trail passes just below the 5494-foot summit of Sugarland Mountain, which will be on your left, towards the west.

white-trilliumJust beyond this point, as the trail begins to descend again, we ran into a thick carpet of spring beauty. We also saw several sweet white trilliums in full bloom as well.

At roughly 3.5 miles there will be a slight rise in the trail, at which point the trail makes a sharp left-hand turn. It's at this point that Gatlinburg comes into view. You'll also hear the faint din of traffic on Newfound Gap Road below you. Of course the trail continues all the way down to Fighting Creek Gap on Little River Road, but this small vantage point marks the end of this particular hike.

Before turning around, stand facing Gatlinburg for a second. If Gatlinburg is at the 12:00 position, turn your head towards the 2:00 position. If you're taller than the average person, or if you're hiking in the winter or early spring, look slightly down and you might be able to see Chimney Tops. You may even be able to see or hear hikers near the summit of this popular destination across the valley.

Although there isn't a big payoff in terms of panoramic views, the reward of this hike is in the serenity of the forest and the solitude you're likely to find. Although we hiked this trail on a Sunday afternoon, we didn't see a single soul the entire time we were out on the trail.








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