Cades Cove Area Hiking Trails
Probably the most visited section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, people flock to the Cades Cove area to view wildlife. While wildlife viewing is available throughout the whole park, people come here because of the cove's 11-mile motor vehicle loop road. The road through this valley offers a chance to view wildlife from the luxury of one's automobile.
Cades Cove also offers many historical buildings, churches, and old settlement remains left behind by 19th century settlers to view. This valley also offers pristine hiking trails to enhance one's wildlife viewing. Cades Cove, like other areas of the park, provides access to the backcountry by use of these trails:
This 4.2-mile trail connects Cades Cove to the Abram's Creek area, while traveling by Abrams Falls. Most people access this trail from Cades Cove to hike to Abrams Falls. From the end of the unpaved road to the falls, the total distance is approximately 3 miles. Abrams Falls Trail is listed in the Cades Cove area because of the easier access to Abrams Falls.
A one-mile trail used in the Cades Cove area to link Abrams Falls Trail/Rabbit Creek Trail with the Cooper Road Trail coming out of the Abram's Creek area.
Coming out of Cades Cove on Rich Mountain Road, heading toward Townsend, Tennessee, there is a trail to the left near the park boundary. This is the Ace Gap Trail. This trail winds 5.6 miles through the woods to Ace Gap. After this, the trail becomes the Beard Cane Trail, going another 4.2 miles toward the Abram's Creek area.
Coming out of Cades Cove on Rich Mountain Road, heading toward Townsend, Tennessee, there is a trail near the park boundary that goes off to the right. This is the Rich Mountain Trail, and it goes 2.3 miles to Campsite #5, at the intersection of Indian Grave Gap Trail.
Indian Grave Gap Trail can be accessed off of Rich Mountain Road, coming out of Cades Cove going toward Townsend, Tennessee. Going out, it is the first trail off to the right. From here, Indian Grave Gap Trail runs 1.1 miles to where Rich Mountain Loop Trail wanders off to the right. After this, Indian Grave Trail continues on 0.8 of a mile to where the Rich Mountain Trail comes in from the left. The next section goes 1.8 miles to where it meets Scott Mountain Trail on the left and Crooked Arm Ridge Trail on the right. Indian Grave Gap Trail is 3.7 miles in length.
Breaking off at mile 1.1 of the Indian Grave Gap Trail, Rich Mountain Loop Trail continues 2.9 miles to where it meets Crooked Arm Ridge Trail, just before meeting Cades Cove Loop Road. The small section between Crooked Arm Ridge Trail and the Cades Cove Loop Road is about 0.4 of a mile, making the total mileage 3.3 miles Most people access this trail from Cades Cove Loop Road near the campground and ranger station. The trail itself is mostly used as a loop hike involving Indian Grave Gap Trail and Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. This forms a 7.7-mile loop.
Access to this trail is available from the Cades Cove area campground and ranger station on the Cades Cove Loop Road. After walking a little ways in toward a stream, Crooked Arm Ridge Trail branches off to the right, going 2.2 miles to the intersection of Indian Grave Gap Trail (on the left) and Scott Mountain Trail (keeping straight).
A 3.6-mile trail leading from the trail intersection of Indian Grave Gap Trail/ Crooked Arm Ridge Trail to another trail intersection involving Chestnut Top Trail and Schoolhouse Gap Trail. Campsite #6 is located on this trail near the Indian Grave Gap Trail/ Crooked Arm Ridge Trail junction.
Winding 4.3 miles, this trail connects the Scott Mountain Trail and Schoolhouse Gap Trail junction with Tennessee State Route 73.
Leaving the junction of Scott Mountain Trail and Chestnut Top Trail, the Schoolhouse Gap Trail winds one mile to where Turkeypen Ridge Trail goes off to the right. After this, the trail continues 1.1 miles to the Laurel Creek Road that leads into Cades Cove. Schoolhouse Gap Trail meets the road at exactly the same place the Bote Mountain Trail comes out at. Schoolhouse Gap is 2.2 miles total.
This 3.6-mile trail links the Laurel Creek Road to the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. Crib Gap Trail intersects the trail after the first 0.2 of a mile.
Anthony Creek Trail is 3.6 miles long, stretching from Cades Cove Campground to the upper portion of Bote Mountain. Soon after leaving the campground, the trail runs by the stables in the area where the Crib Gap Trail branches off to the left. From there, the trail climbs 1.6 miles to where Russell Field Trail starts on the right. After this, the trail winds 1.9 miles up to Campsite #9 and ends at the Bote Mountain Trail, near Spence Field Shelter. A very popular all-day hike, people take Anthony Creek Trail to access the Appalachian Trail by merging with Bote Mountain Trail. After getting on the Appalachian Trail, it is just a short climb to Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain - two of the clearest vistas in the whole park.
A 1.6-mile footpath leading from the stables area of the Cades Cove Campground to a trail junction just off Laurel Creek Road. The trail begins from the stables off of the Anthony Creek Trail, crosses the Laurel Creek Road where it enters Cades Cove, then ends at the junction of Turkeypen Ridge Trail, Finley Creek Trail, and the Laurel Creek Road.
A 3.5-mile trail full of switchbacks leading from the Anthony Creek Trail to the Russell Field Shelter located on the Appalachian Trail. Campsite #10 is located on this trail as well. Hikers often use this trail as a quick access to the Appalachian Trail and Russell Field Shelter. Through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail have seen numerous bears over the years between Russell Field and Mollies Ridge. (Smokies Blog 2009)
The Lead Cove Trail is a 1.8-mile access trail to the Bote Mountain Trail. It starts off of the Laurel Creek Road, across from the junction of Crib Gap Trail and Turkeypen Ridge Trail. This trail can also be accessed from the Finley Cane Trail along the road.
A 2.8-mile trail leading from the Laurel Creek Road to the lower portion of the Bote Mountain Trail. To Access Finley Cane Trail, find the junction of Turkeypen Ridge Trail, Crib Gap Trail, and Laurel Creek Road. The trail starts on the other side of the road. Lead Cove Trail can also be accessed from this trail.
Bote Mountain Trail climbs around 6.9 miles up Bote Mountain to the Appalachian Trail, providing access to other trails along the way. Starting at Laurel Creek Road, across from the Schoolhouse Gap Trail, Bote Mountain Trail climbs 1.2 miles to meet the West Prong Trail coming in from the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. After this, the trail goes a little ways up, meeting Finley Cane Trail on the right. After this, it is a 2.5-mile climb up to where Lead Cove Trail comes in from the right also. Another 1.2 miles up, Bote Mountain Trail meets the Anthony Creek Trail coming in from Cades Cove Campground. After this, the trail switchbacks 1.7 miles, coming out on the Appalachian Trail. From here, hikers can stay at Spence Field by going right, or climb up and visit Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountains, which offer perhaps the most fantastic views in the whole park.
The history of the Bote Mountain trail can be traced back to the early days of the park. In the 1830s, Isaac Anderson, president of Maryville College, saw a need for a road in the area. According to Russ Manning in his book 100 Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was to be built in order to access mountain communities for education and missionary work. While building the road, Cherokee workers were asked what ridge to go up. Finding an old Cherokee trail, they said, "Vote." Thinking the workers were naming the ridge, the road became known as "Bote." Road construction was quickly abandoned, and later a new site was selected in a new found gap crossing into North Carolina. That road is now Newfound Gap Road.
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