Explore the most popular lake trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

years ago I did a quarter of this trail. had a ferry drop me at a mid point, as I was a novice backpacker. Had a great time, nice access to the lake for fishing and swimming opportunities.

Pretty tough hike in the pouring rain! We got wet and it was really cold at the tower but we loved every muddy step!!

7 rock hops down to CS91 then 8 stream crossings with a few rock hops on down to Lakeshore Trail.

3 months ago

hiked the entirety of this trail, plus some, in three nights and four days (really 3.5 days) in late january. i say ‘plus some’ because the ‘road to nowhere’ park entrance was closed due to snow, so we left our vehicle at the gate and hiked the six miles of road to start our trek. we totaled at about 45 miles after it was all said and done. campsites were great (90 is best IMO), plenty of water at all. used a filter straw and 32 oz. bottle w/ no problem. had feral hogs circle our site one night, one of the middle ones - can’t remember which. maybe 76? that was cool, and heard plenty of coyotes. didn’t see a single person the entire time.

Fun hike. did it today with snow on the ground. very challenging on the way to the tower all uphill for the most part. awesome view. the dam was closed so we had to hike from the other side of the dam since the road is currently closed.

We really enjoyed the hike. The trailhead is impossible to find, But this AllTrail app took us right there.. It is basically at the intersection of two streets. Parking is not existent and we just parked on the side of the road by some electrical utilities. When you start hiking, you’re not really sure that you’re walking on the trail and you see a sign that says private property. I think that marks the private property line to the left of the trail as you’re walking. Nonetheless, if you walk about 300 yards, you will then obviously see National Park Service signs. We went in middle of November right as the leaves were changing. It was unbelievably beautiful. Many of the leaves have fallen so we could see through the trees and see gorgeous panoramas. The trail is wide. It’s made for horses so you don’t have to walk single file you can actually walk next to your hiking partners and talk comfortably. We followed the maps that went Took us on a different route up the mountain. The view was just beautiful smoky mountain panorama. The trails are clearly marked and there are plenty of signs That direct you which way to go. This was a very peaceful, quiet, serene Trail.The trailhead is right near the lake in the sky in Tennessee and although we did not go there, I would recommend at least driving into the small town as I hear it is also beautiful.

Tough but amazing view at the peak of fall made it totally worth it!!!

Great workout. Well marked trail. incredible 360 views from the top of the tower.

The view from the top is amazing!

This is a strenuous hike, especially the Lost Cove trail but the Shuckstack fire tower's view makes it all worth it.

Hiked this one back in Feb. during a HIKE CATION to Fontana Resort Village. enjoyed this trail a lot. So tranquil & serene. Had the trail all to myself during the hike.

10 months ago

We spent 8 days on this trail, hiking rather slowly as our youngest is 3 years old. From the Road to Nowhere, we hiked 2.9 miles to campsite #74, then 6.6 miles to campsite #98, then 2.3 miles to campsite #76 then back out the way we came in, staying in a couple of the campsites for 2 days in a row to spend more time swimming and exploring. The trail from 74 to 76 had a fair amount of storm damage and downed trees requiring taking off packs, and climbing over or under, which made for slower progress than we had expected. The campsites are great - all with good water sources and bear cables. You can also reach the lake from all of the sites. Saw salamanders, a peregrine falcon, tons of frogs, and heard a bobcat after a storm one night. Bring bug spray and do not count on anything being able to dry out in this temperate rainforest!

10 months ago

Beautiful trail! Need better signage.

10 months ago

Beautiful trail! Need better signage.

The road across the dam is closed so add 2 miles round trip to the hike if you plan an out and back. Sections of this hike are relatively flat and offer a chance to recover from the steeper sections of the trail. That said, instead of being a gradual up all the way, you go in and out of steep sections where the elevation gains are made. The payoff is the fire tower at the summit and ruins from the old cabin. I summited as a leading edge of a rain storm hit and decided not to go up into the tower. If you want a casual easy fun hike this is not a good pick. if you want a challenging uphill hike with a stunning view from the top, this is it. There are also occasional view of the lake and dam. I descended as night fell and the view of the illuminated dam was a great touch.

Beautiful hike!

we started this loop walking from the dam towards the trail head. mostly uphill towards the tower, after awhile you can see it in the distance. very strenuous climb up if you're not in shape. at the tower the trail curves right to the lost cove trail which is mostly all downhill, a beautiful creek runs across most of the rest of the trail back. some parts you have to get wet. I'm considering buying trekking poles after this hike, the way down was wet and covered in leaves, very easy to loose footing with the steep downhill. it rained the entire day, and the leaves were all down so I imagine it looked more beautiful and alive in the summer. definitely a hike I'm going to redo in the summer months, didn't see any wildlife, but there was signs of bears in the areas. the last leg of the trail was the lake shore trail, mostly flat was a nice break! then toward the end some uphill, a few views of the fontana lake. the lake shore trail has a few old cars scattered along it, very neat. overall just the tower was worth the hike. will do it again, and would recommend it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hiked this trail on 10/23/16 fabulous day for this hike. Leaves at nearly peak. This is a constant climb but very doable if you are in decent condition. Don't be deceived by the milage estimate, you cannot drive across the dam at this time so from the parking lot it is exactly 10 miles round trip. Not crowded at all, saw very few people on the trail. Highly recommend this trail for a clear day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It was a long time ago, but I loved it. Except for the red tape. This is a strenuous hike so do not even think about it if you are not up to it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It has been five years but I remember the beauty and I think my legs still ache. This was one rough trail for the heavy pack I carried back then. The cabin and restaurant at Fontana dam was a joy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the true natural wonders of the American Southeast. The park here is expansive, and there are more sights to see than the average adventurer could soak up in a lifetime.

I was a part of a group of three that completed the Appalachian Trail through the park in May of 2016. The hike was challenging due to the distance, the weather and the elevation changes we experienced during the eight day hike.

The trip resonated so profoundly with me that I even wrote a book about the experience. My retelling of the story and experiences in the park are better suited for print. The book can be purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Longest-Mile-Great-Smoky-Mountains/dp/1533374058

Needless to say, this trip was a monumental experience.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Awesome place! Go during fall and bring s backpacking water filter if you want to get some nice stream water for the hike :) best view of all the years I've been going to the Fontana area!

Spent an hour writing a detailed summary of the hike, hit the wrong button and erased it...
So ill just say this. Its a great hike for people that have at least some experience with multi-night backpacking. Not really good if youve never been because once you are done with your first day, cutting it short for any reason is going to be very difficult.
If youre experienced this is a 3 day hike. The best shelters to use are Mollies Ridge to Silers Bald. This means your mileage per day will be 10-17-13. The 17 is not as bad as it sounds, a little extra 2nd day so that you dont die the 3rd day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It was the most amazing hike I've ever been on. Don't go during the winter if you don't like to be cold. It was almost 18 degrees when I went. The view is impeccable. Definitely worth the effort. And it's extremely strenuous. Do not wear shoes with little tread. You will slip and slide all over the leaves and it will add more time and difficulty to your hike. Make sure you have proper hiking shoes. Watch for bears because there have been a few deaths. There's a chart at the beginning of the trail that tells you if there is a lot of activity. The most strenuous and difficult trail of the entire Appalachian trail. So this is not for the novice hiker. The tower at the top is sketchy but awesome. My favorite place to hike.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This hike was more challenging than expected. The beginning mile is a harsh hike to the top of the mountain ridge. The remaining hike is along the ridge line. I was told by the Fontana damn museum employee that the shuckstack trail is the longest continuous ascent in the Appalachian trail. There are only a brief sections where the trail levels out. The last mile is also challenging also the steepest. The tower is amazing and was recently serviced when we went. Each tread had been replaced. The view is incomparable as you are at the highest mountain peak within the range, especially if you make it to the top of the tower. Just be careful. Lastly I read a few reviews that said this is a 7.4 mile round trip hike, this is absolutely incorrect, it's at least 10 miles round trip. It took us 3 hours to get to the top and 2 to get down. I highly recommend at least once.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Very hard hike but so very worth it!! The views from the fire tower are excellent, and the hike up is very scenic in the Fall. Be forewarned of two things: the trail is not well marked, and as of this review you can't cross Fontana Dam by car to get to the trailhead. You have to park at the dam visitor center and walk almost a mile to the Appalachian Trail (which serves as the trailhead).

Monday, September 21, 2015

We did an overnight backpacking trip here, starting with a boat ride from Fontana dam($25) to Hazel creek. From Hazel creek we hiked about 6 miles via lakeshore trail to campsite #90(backcountry permit required and can be acquired through GSMNP). The campsite was awesome, a creek on one side and the river on the other! From campsite #90 we hiked to Fontana dam via lakeshore trail which was about 7 miles. Overall a good trip but the trail is hilly so be prepared, especially day #2.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Distance: 4.7, 6.8, 6.2 miles each day
Trails: Lakeshore Trail, Eagle Creek, Lost Cove Trail, Appalachian Trail

Fantastic easy hike with swimming & history & graveyards!

Very steep the first few miles and not a good way to start hiking the AT trail for the beginner! Once over the steepest it is pretty and nice to Doe Knob. Hope to complete AT in Smokies soon. Work and snow prevented me from finishing last fall.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

An awesome trail. We completed this trail unexpectedly when we couldn't get cell service to contact the marina for a ride back from a back country fly-fishing trip. We were actually loaded down with WAY too much gear for a 15 mile trail but managed it. Be ready for serious switch backs at the beginning of the trail. Beautiful scenery, a bit of history and great views of Fontana!

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