Did the Meadow Creek to Gum Springs loop ("counter-clockwise") but didn't go up the spur to the fire tower, which made the loop 5 miles on the dot. Trailhead is right across from the Houston Valley Campground.
Lots of blowdown on the first mile right now. The first half of the loop is pretty backcountry and strenuous and the second half is pretty open and easy.
The MCMT is a confederation of old forest roads, horse trails and footpaths that combine to form a 14 mile ridge line route following along the Houston Valley in Greene and Cocke Counties, TN
Rather than attempting the entire trail in a single trek, I recommend hiking from either end up to the fire tower to familiarize yourself with the area. Significant parts of the trail are very faint or completely overgrown. The yellow blazes for the trail are scarce and often absent at key transition points. Plus, there are several unmapped spurs, particularly on the horse trail phase.
The Long Creek (LC) or western side of the trail in Cocke County is easily found by turning left onto S. Hwy 340 from W. Hwy 25/70. Pass Old Long Creek Rd, then turn your next right onto (new) Long Creek Rd. The trailhead is on your right, just past Smokey Hollow Way. The sign for the trail is visible from the tiny pull off area.
The Cedar Creek (CC) or eastern side of the trail in Greene County is found by turning onto Cedar Creek Rd off S. Hwy 70. Turn left onto Garrett Hill Rd, then right onto Cedar Creek CAVE Rd. Drive about a mile to find an unmarked logging road on the left. There is no sign for the trail because it does not officially start there. Contrary to what’s shown on NG map 782, the actual trailhead is located about a mile up this road on foot. Starting out, you'll immediately cross a stream that's clearly visible from the pull off area. Keep left and hike until the road Ts. Go right and proceed until you see the post for Forest Service Trail #6 MCMT on your right. The trail officially begins here.
On either approach, you can park at the fire tower from N. Hwy 107, then shuttle to the trailhead. Up and back? Doing one from the CC is okay, but I recommend using the forest service road after hiking from the LC (explanation below).
LC: Starting out on a well maintained path, you will ascend and descend several small, but very steep ridges, until reaching an old logging road. Go left. You’ll soon come to a fork. If you go left, you'll end on the forest service road leading back down to LC. If you go right, the road dead ends. Using NG 782, you will notice a very faint trail leading up a small knoll. Upon reaching its top, carefully look for the trail on your right. Its not easy, but you can find and track the trail by spotting cut timber along its way as you climb straight up the sizable ridge in front of you. Upon reaching the summit, the trail will frequently fade, but by keeping along to the ridge top, you should be able to continue picking it back up. At the end of the ridge, the trail descends to the right. At the bottom, you'll find the first blazes of the day! From there, the trail is pretty easy to follow as you arrive to witness the stunning vistas viewed upon the backbone of the mother ridge leading to the tower. There are 3 good reasons to use the forest service road instead of backtracking on your return: 1) Its just as hard to track the trail going back as it was coming in. 2) Those very steep ridges might be hazardous going back down on tired legs and 3) the forest road has its own charms and you'll get back to your car faster.
CC: Reaching the top of the ridge, the trail continues on a beautiful, narrow backbone trek with the Blue Ridge Mountains to the south and the Tennessee Valley to the north. You’ll run into some brush, but nothing too difficult. In place of the elusive yellow blazes, pink plastic tape is copiously tied around trees every 100 yards. However, upon the descent from Chuckey Mountain (the highest point on the ridge) a fire has taken out the trees along with their tape, and the trail is AWOL. As the descent begins to level off, scan to the right. The trail faintly reappears through a prominent patch of rhododendron leading around the next ridge. After about a mile, it ends on a well-defined horse trail - continue right. On this phase of the hike, there are enough un-mapped spurs to cause some second guessing, but with a little common sense, making it to the tower from this point should be no problem.
Keep in mind:
-Bring a map! The NG 782 is fine in tandem with the info above.
-While the trail may be named after a creek, there's very little water on it. Bring plenty.
-A trekking pole is quite handy on some of the narrow ridge huggers, steep ascents and brush wrangling.
-Wear long pants to dull the sting of the thorns and wear something bright - you're more likely to meet a hunter before a ranger.
The payoff? Look at the pictures! The remote backbone treks on both sides of the tower should not be missed!
Great trails breast collar and possible crupper recommended. Boots or shoes recommended. In late fall you can see through the trees. White tail deer. Not much water available for horses. Watch that you are not on private property. Views from the fire tower are breathtaking. Mtn. Laurel is very plenty on the trail. Footing c