Rocky Top Trail

HARD 20 reviews

Rocky Top Trail is a 11.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Townsend, TN that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.

11.6 miles 4392 feet Out & Back

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

horseback riding

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no dogs

Historic trail leads to Spence Field and 360 degree views This hike will begin on the Lead Cove Trail, which will follow the creek and then turns and follows the ridge. At 1.8 mi you will turn right on Bote Mtn Trail. This trail has been used since the early 1830s and was developed as a road during the 1850s by Cherokee labor. At 3.0 mi the trail intersects with the Anthony Creek Trail and you can see a huge open area, which until the late 1960s you could drive your car here and a short hike to Spence Field. But today you will continue on the Bote Mtn Trail. At 4.7 mi you intersect with the Appalachian Trail turn left and look rising above you is Rocky Top. Take a break and stroll around Spence Field for some nice views as well. It is not as hard of a hike from here as it looks. Over the next mile you will go up and down through some wooded area before you pop out in a rocky bare spot that will offer you 360-degree views. From one spot you can see Fontana Lake, Clingmans Dome, Mt LeConte and Cades Cove. Return via same route.

hiking
3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

The views are spectacular!!! this is my new favorite Smokey Mountain hike. Horses are also allowed here and I ran into some trail riders on my hike. Also, you'll probably run into some AT hikers, since part of the way up runs along the AT. On the way back down, I saw a baby bear! There wasn't a mother around which slightly terrified me, but I kept my distance and it was alright.

5 months ago

Awesome view of the Smoky Mountains. My son had a blast playing the UT band rendition of "Rocky Top" while standing on the summit.

hiking
5 months ago

6 months ago

This trail is hard more because of the rocks than the elevation gain/loss. I'd definitely recommend trekking poles! The views from Spence Field are amazing and wonderful! You could stay up there all day!

10 months ago

When you begin the final ascent up the Bote Mountain Trail, you'll notice how deeply the path cuts into the earth - This is a very ancient, ancient trail.

I'm not sure whether the song was named after the place, or if the place was named after the song......but I am sure of one thing: people (with or without fur) have been coming to this place for a very long time.

There's something very Holy up there.....

hiking
11 months ago

Tough climb. Up in 3 down in 2. Appalachian is the best part. No crowds, a big plus for the smokies.

hiking
1 year ago

The beginning of this trail is a very, very gradual incline until you reach the Bote Mountain trail. The forest itself is very lovely! Wide, clear paths. However, rocks! Rocks everywhere! Beware that you will have incredibly sore feet by the end of this hike. I know some people like to snuff off trekking poles, but I found them to be very beneficial if you have poor/achy knees like I do. The last mile is the most strenuous.. but not too bad. I've done steeper at longer distances. The view at the summit of Rocky Top is extravagantly beautiful! Very rewarding after the long trek. Also just thought I would note, I walked up behind a fairly large black bear strolling down the trail about 2 miles from the summit. He halted in his tracks and turned to look at me for a few long seconds, then continued to walk casually down the trail for another 30 feet before he darted off in the trees. Seemed generally unamused/unbothered but just a heads up!

hiking
1 year ago

This was the first time I've ever done such a hike (this long, this high, this hard). It was beyond worth it.

The first mile is deceptively flat, and it's only a slight incline until you get to Bote trail, when you really start to go up.

The leaves were just starting to change so we had interesting views even deep inside the forest.

The view from the Spence Field was beautiful, but Rocky Top was worth every sight. We saw maybe 8 people + a massive group of college kids while we were up there, and had fifteen blissful minutes at the top by ourselves.

I would do this hike again and again

The longest hike I've ever done before this was about 8 miles, with only a 600-ft incline (to about 1500 feet). I had to take a few short breaks on the way up (less than 5 minutes each time), and we still did the hike in 6 hours 15 minutes, a flat 8 hours with our stops.

hiking
1 year ago

This was the handle of a large reverse lollipop I did. It is a tough hike getting there but the views are definitely worth it. I was there yesterday and expected a lot of colors, but maybe the weather messed that up. Even without a lot of color, the views are incredible. 360 degrees. You can see Fontana Lake to the south, into North Carolina as far as you can see to the Southeast and as far as you want back to the West and North. I will do this hike every time some one asks me.

1 year ago

hiking
1 year ago

I loved it for the most part. I definitely would do this hike all over again but only in the fall or early spring. The problem with hiking it in the summer/late spring is all the constant storms and ridiculous humidity. It made it too hard to see anything at the peak because of the thick clouds from all the rain fall that day. This hike is also very mentally challenging after a certain point, it feels as if it's a never ending mountain!

1 year ago

Did this on 5/3/15 for the first time ever via Anthony Creek and Bote Mountain to the AT. Absolutely stunning views!

hiking
2 years ago

Unfortunately there was fog once we arrived at the top. We will have to come back and do again. The ascent to Rocky Top after reaching the App Trail was extremely challenging. It took us about 7 hours round trip.

hiking
2 years ago

hiking
2 years ago

Very strenuous hike with lots of ascension. Definitely worth the brutal climb for the summit views!

hiking
3 years ago

This is a Brutal hike but has spectacular views. It is extremely strenuous. It's 7 miles each way with an elevation gain of 3500'. For most of the trail you climb 100' per .1 mile, about a 10% incline. Overall you climb 4000' It is a horse trail, so it's very muddy / horse crap. Start at Cade's coves picnic area, go towards the back and look for Anthony Creek Trail. Follow to Bote Mountain trail, about 3.5 miles. You arrive at Spence Field to the left, gorgeous views. Continue past Spence Field for 1.2 miles to Rocky Top. You can see Rocky Top from Spence Field, it's the bare mountain spot on the 2nd ridge. I found the climb to rocky top to pretty tough. I was exhausted after reaching Spence Field & I still had to go the additional 1.2 to Rocky Top. It was a great hike with unbelievable views but extremely tough. Be prepared. It took us about 4 hours to climb it & 2.5 to decent. 9 hours total. We ran out of water so we hiked to the shelter on Spence Field area and refilled our water supply.

hiking
4 years ago

5 stars for the view which as others have said is one of the best in the GSMNP, I've seen a lot of views in the smokies but I can't think of another that will give you a 360 degree view like at Rocky Top. The view is awesome with Cade's Cove to the right and Fontana lake to the left. To the East and behind you will be mountains and Thunderhead. The Thunderhead summit is another .3 miles and adds another view but no where near what can be seen at Rocky Top.
The trail is pretty tough with a lot of elevation climbs, plan on using most of your day for the trip. I started too late in the day and hiked the last 3 miles back down by headlamp. The picnic/ trailhead area gates close at dark but in my case where not locked when I got back. i was able to open the gates to leave.

hiking
4 years ago

We started this hike via Lead Cove Trail. It was mostly up hill all the way to Spence field. We kept thinking we were nearing the top only to find more uphill awaiting us. We took a break at Spence Field and enjoyed the view of Fontana Lake. Then we headed off to Rocky Top. Once we arrived there we enjoyed a spectacular view. I then dropped to one knee and proposed to my girlfriend who is now my wife.

hiking
6 years ago

This trail is absolutely fantastic. Not too many crowds, great condition (although you'll want to watch your step as horses share the trail part of the way)... and the view at the top of the mountain was worth every minute. Be prepared for a strenuous climb--coming back down was a breeze!