Northshore Area Hiking Trails

Road to Nowhere

A tunnel marks the end of the "Road to Nowhere". On the other side of the tunnel a couple of hiking trails continue, but the road abruptly ends and will never be finished.

There is a road coming out of Bryson City called Lakeview Drive.  It was originally built as a compromise in 1943 when the TVA bought the land south of it in order to flood it because of the construction of Fontana Dam.  The land north of the newly-built Fontana Dam was given to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Department of the Interior.  Several people had to relocate due to this.  The compromise promised to relocate and build North Carolina Route 288 along the northern shore of Fontana Lake. 

In 1970, the National Park Service began construction on the new road and completed seven miles.  Later, the NPS halted construction due to cost and environmental damage.  As Swain County, North Carolina, residents continued to demand the road be completed, Congress issued $16 million dollars to resume construction in 2001.  This then triggered an Environmental Impact Statement of the area. 

After finishing the EIS in 2007, the government proposed that a monetary settlement be given instead of finishing the road due to the huge environmental impact the road would have on the diversity of the park.  The estimated construction would cost the government $729 million.  In 2010, an agreement was made between the U.S. government and Swain County:  Swain County would receive $52 million dollars, and the 1943 agreement would be terminated.  Now the seven mile stretch of road leading out of Bryson City simply ends in the backcountry of the park, giving it the nickname "The Road to Nowhere."

A few trails can be accessed from Lakeview Drive.  These trails lead to other trails, covering a large area of backcountry.  It is here, in the quietest section of the Smokies, backpackers come to get away and get lost in nature.  The trails that can be accessed by driving to the end of Lakeview Drive are:

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Noland Creek Trail

Just before Lakeview Drive ends, Noland Creek Trail intersects it as the road goes over Noland Creek.  Starting from boat-accessible Campsite #66, Noland Creek Trail goes one mile to the road.  From the other side of the road, the Noland Creek Trail follows the creek up past Campsite #65 and climbs 4.1 miles to Campsite #64.  At Campsite #64, Springhouse Branch Trail comes in from the left.  After this, the trail climbs 5.1 miles to the intersection of Noland Divide Trail, all while passing Campsites #63, #62, and #61. 

Across the intersection, the Noland Creek Trail becomes the Pole Road Creek Trail, which leads back into the Deep Creek area.  Being a popular overnight hiking trail, leading to various campsites, Noland Creek Trail totals 10.2 miles.  It helps link the Deep Creek area to the Northshore area.  Noland Creek Trail is also a section of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail.

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Lakeshore Trail

Coming to the end of Lakeview Drive, Lakeshore Trail begins.  Following the proposed route of the re-routed North Carolina 288, the trail covers 28.5 miles through wilderness alongside the shoreline of Fontana Lake.  Starting from the road, the trail goes 0.6 miles through a tunnel carved in the mountain.  From here, the trail meets Tunnel Bypass Trail, for those who don't like going underground. 

From this intersection, the trail goes about 0.2 miles to where Goldmine Loop Trail comes in from the left.  After this, the trail goes 1.3 miles, where it meets Whiteoak Branch Trail coming in at the right.  The next trail intersection is only 1 mile away.  Here, Lakeshore Trail meets Bear Creek Trail to the right.  Continuing along, the trail runs by Campsite #74 before stretching 21 miles and meeting another trail.  Along the way, Lakeshore Trail goes by Campsites #98, #76, #77, and #81.  After the 21 miles, the trail comes to an intersection of Hazel Creek Trail. 

Taking Hazel Creek Trail to the left leads to Campsite #86, while going right can take you all the way up close to Silers Bald.  Going straight, Lakeshore Trail runs by Campsite #88 and continues 4.4 miles to the Eagle Creek Trail intersection at Campsite #90.  Lakeshore Trail then continues on 5.2 miles to Fontana Dam, near the Appalachian Trail crossing.  The whole Lakeshore trail is approximately 34.7 miles long, and the majority of it is a section of the even larger Benton MacKaye Trail.

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Tunnel Bypass Trail

This 1.6-mile trail bypasses the tunnel created for the proposed North Carolina Route 288.  Goldmine Loop Trail branches off from Tunnel Bypass Trail 0.4 miles in and later connects back to the Lakeshore Trail.

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Goldmine Loop Trail

A 2.4-mile trail looping around from the end of Lakeview Drive to the 0.8 mile of Lakeshore Trail.  To get to it, hikers must hike 0.4 miles in on the Tunnel Bypass Trail.  From here, Goldmine Loop Trail goes 2 miles off to the right.  Goldmine Loop Trail also leads back to Campsite #67. 

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Whiteoak Branch Trail

Whiteoak Branch Trail goes off to the right of the Lakeshore Trail 2.1 miles in.  It totals 1.8 miles, as it climbs from here to meet the Forney Creek Trail.

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Bear Creek Trail

At mile 3.1 on Lakeshore Trail, Forney Creek Trail branches off to the right.  It is also 1 mile away from where Whiteoak Branch Trail branched off Lakeshore Trail to the right.  After 0.4 miles on the Forney Creek Trail, Bear Creek Trail branches off to the left and covers 5.9 miles up-mountain.  Bear Creek totals 5.9 miles in length and comes out at the intersection of Welch Ridge Trail and Cold Spring Gap Trail.

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Forney Creek Trail

This 11.4-mile trail climbs from the bottom of Bear Creek Trail near Lakeshore Trail to Forney Ridge Trail, just north of Andrew's Bald and south of Clingmans Dome.  The first 0.4 miles connect the Bear Creek Trail with the Lakeshore Trail.  Forney Creek Trail meets Whiteoak Branch Trail coming in on the right, 1.1 miles in from the Bear Creek Trail intersection.  From here, it is 1.3 miles to the Springhouse Branch Trail intersection and Campsite #71.  Up from here, it is 1.2 miles to Campsite #70 and where Jonas Creek Trail branches off to the left.  After this, Forney Creek Trail climbs 7.4 miles up-mountain, while passing Campsites #69 and #68, up to the Forney Ridge Trail, just south of Clingmans Dome.

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Springhouse Branch Trail

Connecting Campsite #71 on the Forney Creek Trail to Campsite #64 on Noland Creek Trail, Springhouse Branch Trail winds 7 miles.  Forney Ridge Trail heads north toward Clingmans Dome 4.2 miles from Forney Creek Trail and 2.8 miles from Noland Creek Trail.

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Forney Ridge Trail

Sprouting north from Springhouse Branch Trail, Forney Ridge Trail climbs 5.5 miles to the parking lot of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smokies.  Before meeting Forney Creek Trail to the left, Forney Ridge Trail climbs Andrew's Bald, a famous scenic view in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Clingmans Dome Paved Walkpath

There is a paved trail that leads from the parking lot of Clingmans Dome to the actual lookout.  Forney Ridge Trail comes into the parking lot from the south.

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Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail

This half-mile trail is used for hikers looking to bypass Clingmans Dome and hit the Appalachian Trail.

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Jonas Creek Trail

Starting at Campsite #70 off the Forney Creek Trail, Jonas Creek Trail leads 4.1 miles to Welch Ridge Trail, south of Silers Bald Shleter.

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Welch Ridge Trail

This 7.3-mile trail stretches from the intersection of Cold Spring Gap Trail to the famous Appalachian Trail, approximately one-half mile away from Silers Bald Shelter.  From the end of Cold Spring Gap Trail, the trail climbs 1 mile up to the intersection of Bear Creek Trail. Welch Ridge Trail then climbs 3.9 miles to where Jonas Creek Trail comes in on the right.  Another 0.7 miles up the trail, the Hazel Creek Trail comes in from the left, leaving 1.7 miles from here to the Appalachian Trail.

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Cold Spring Gap Trail

A 3.5-mile trail leading from Welch Ridge Trail to Hazel Creek Trail.  Along the way, there is a short side trail that climbs up to High Rocks, 0.9 miles in.  The trail then runs through Cold Spring Gap and follows the stream to Hazel Creek. 

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High Rocks Side Trail

A short trail branching off the Welch Ridge Trail.  Hike here for a view.  The trail is less than 0.5 miles.

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Hazel Creek Trail

Starting near Campsite #86, Hazel Creek Trail follows the creek up toward the Silers Bald area.  The trail comes out at Welch Ridge Trail, just 1.7 miles from the Appalachian Trail and Silers Bald.  Ollie Cove Trail starts out from the shore of Fontana Lake and goes approximately 0.3 miles to Lakeshore Trail. 

At the intersection, Hazel Creek Trail begins and climbs 4.5 miles to where Jenkins Ridge Trail comes in from the left.  The trail passes by Campsites #85 and #84 in this section.  After this, the trail goes only 0.8 miles to where Bone Valley Trail goes off to the left near Campsite #83.  From here it is only 1.3 miles to Cold Spring Gap Trail, which branches toward the right.  Hazel Creek Trail then climbs 8.1 miles (passing Campsite #82) to Welch Ridge Trail in the Silers Bald area, near the Appalachian Trail.  Altogether, Hazel Creek Trail is approximately 14.7 miles long.

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Ollie Cove Trail

A small, 0.3-mile trail that connects Lakeshore Trail/ Hazel Creek Trail to the Ollie Cove area on the shore of Fontana Lake.

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Bone Valley Trail

A 1.8-mile side trail off the Hazel Creek Trail, near Campsite #83.  Bone Valley travels up Big Flats Branch and then dead ends.

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Jenkins Ridge Trail

Stretching 8.9 miles up-mountain, the Jenkins Ridge Trail branches off Hazel Creek Trail at Campsite #84.  It then ascends up to access the Appalachian Trail just south of Rocky Top and north of Spence Field Shelter.  Jenkins Ridge Trail is accessible from any campground or ranger station.  Mostly, Jenkins Ridge Trail is only hiked to link other trails together, as someone may do for an overnight hike or multiple-day hike.

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Jenkins Ridge Side Trail

There is a little trail off of Jenkins Ridge Trail (1/3 of the way in from Campsite #84) that leads to a small creek/view.

View the main Smoky Mountain Trails here