Deep Creek Martin's Gap Sunkota Ridge Trail Loop

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Deep Creek Martin's Gap Sunkota Ridge Trail Loop is a 13.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Bryson City, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Length13.4 miElevation gain2,857 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingCampingFishingHikingHorseback ridingNature tripsWalkingRunningForestRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeRockyNo dogs
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Getting There

Deep Creek Trail, Martin's Gap Trail and Sunkota Ridge Trail is a 13.7 mile hiking loop (mileage reports vary) located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. The trail doubles as a horse trail. Loop trail climbing from 1,800 ft. to 3,400 ft. over 13.7 miles. The peak of Sunkota Ridge is 3.8 miles from the end of the loop (hiking clockwise). Due to horse use, conditions can be muddy, and you will need to look out for excrement. There are several campsites along the way.

Parking lot and restrooms at trailhead

I-40 to US-74 West Exit 67 Right on Veterans Blvd Right on Main St Left on Everett St Right on Depot St Continue on Deep Creek Rd Left on West Deep Creek Rd Pass Deep Creek Campground entrance (on right). Follow road over the creek. Trail head is the gravel road at end of parking lot.

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Reviews (41)
Photos (1,711)
Activities (22)
Completed (122)
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Thomas Alappat
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Hiking

Wear good shoes

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J W
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HikingGreat!

I love Sunkota Ridge. I feel the wilderness on this deserted trail. As well used as Deep Creek is (especially the start), Sunkota is little used. It is a narrow path, with lovely views out to both sides. I was out on a rainy day, so careful footing was required. A warm set of dry clothes for the walk back was helpful as I worked up a sweat on the way out. I prefer the Indian Creek to Loop Trail version of this, but love Sunkota so much I wanted to hike both sections of trail.

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Zach Norman
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Zach Norman
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Tom Gause
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HikingMuddy

We completed a portion of the trail today from the trailhead to Campsite 60. The campsite is large enough to accommodate 10 tents easily and still have room. The trail was wide and as described, has horse excrement along the way. So, watch where you step.

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evan hunt
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Hiking

we loved this hike. very nice hike to camp 57. then long climb to deep creek ridge. going down to Indian creek loop trail can be steep towards the end. took us around 7hrs.

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Nadia H
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Hiking

17.5 mile hike with waterfalls on the way. Steep hike

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Cody Koski
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Hiking

My wife and I hiked this over the summer, and it was a pretty brutal during the heat of July. WE went clockwise and camped on the deep creek campsite #7 i believe. Gurgling waters made for a relaxed evening. There also were surprisingly little bugs as well. We made a fire and camped out and enjoyed the beautiful night. The next day we completed the loop. 2 caveats: one don't forget the butane for the stove two bring water purification tablets, and a life straw. luckily i had the life straw to resupply our water. The views when we were able to see through he foliage were gorgeous. I will definitely come back and hike this or the Mountains to Sea trial again.

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Rene Suarez
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Take bear spray with you. I was about 2 miles into the Sunkota Ridge Trail from where it begins when you do it counterclockwise from Deep Creek when I hear loud rustling, look up, and see a momma black bear charging me from 50 yards away with two cubs following behind. I stopped, she stopped, we stared at each other for a little bit and I backed away slowly and went back the way I came. So much for the reviews on here that say there was no wildlife to see. Ten minutes later I heard some more rustling, soiled my pants again, and then saw two deer feet away from the trail.

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Jenna Chavez
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Hiking

Great workout!! Gets steep at about 7 miles out and you keep going up for about 2 miles. But then you get a very cool payoff by following the ridgetop for about a mile of the descent. Beautiful foliage this time of year (end of October) and still managed to get flurries for about 1/3 of the hike! I was glad we downloaded the map because there were a couple times that we were a little confused when reading the signs and would have gone in the wrong direction. Beautiful falls at the end of the hike, which was a pleasant surprise! It took us about 5.5 hours and we are active adults (run, cycle almost daily).

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Kelli Park
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Hiking

I enjoyed this trail! It was dynamic in that both sides of the ridge had different vibes along the trail. The trail follows water a lot, which is nice. I do wish there were more open views/overlooks but the views on the trail are still pretty. Can be steep at times but mostly not too bad or gradual inclines. It's not marked very well though. We went backwards (according to how the app shows) and off trail, going a way that seemed obviously correct, but it wasn't. It did, however hook back up with the regular trail at the top without too much extra hiking.

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Jim Spence
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I don't know who Martin was, but that boy must have been in shape. Follow Deep Creek which is relatively low and little elevation change that follows right along a pretty creek with many trout. Stay at one of the back country campsites 57,58, or 59 before you start your ascent up martins gap to reach the top of Sunkota Ridge. Heck of a hike but it pays off when you get on top. Call Great Smokey Mountains Backcountry office for any questions.

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Jeremy McClung
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We started at the deep creek trailhead and hiked up deep creek trail until campsite 58 about a half mile from martins gap at around mile 6 from the trailhead. We couldn't find a campsite marker for this one but it was a decent site. This first 6 miles was pretty and mostly follows alongside deep creek. On day two we started up martins gap. The first 1.5 miles are straight uphill and there were less views than I was hoping for given the climb in altitude. The second 1.5 miles of martins gap were straight downhill with again a disappointing amount of views. At the end of martins gap trail we took Indian creek trail back down towards the original deep creek trail. That was 2.9 miles until hitting another intersection pointing back towards deep creek trail. After 1.2 miles ahead you reach Indian creek falls which are a nice view and intersect the original deep creek trail for the last .7 miles. I thought that Indian creek trail and the second half of martins gap to be relatively disappointing. Indian creek trail was really just a downhill gravel road more than it was a trail. If I was to do the trip again I would try to take the ridge trail a little ways at the martins gap 1.5 mile for some better views but overall it was a nice overnight trip at 13.8 miles.

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Jesus Carreno
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Hiking

Easy and good for starting hiking.

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David Hall
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This was a great hike in early Sept. 2016. very challenging. We camped at campsite 46 and hiked the rest the following morning.

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Nathan Compton
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This was my first hike in a long time. My friend and I went on it. While it's listed as moderate we found it some what difficult because you walk up hill almost the entire time, in and out. You're in the forest the whole time which is nice if you're looking to get away from everything. The silence is loud. It's delightful. Lots of spider webs. Lots of animal crap. The only wild life we saw was a little turtle and a frog. Lots of camping options all the way through. The first 2 to 3 miles is heavily trafficked but as you get farther in you'll see less and less people. It's advertised as 13 something miles but some how we pulled closer to 17 miles.

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Brett Hanes
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Hiking

A beautiful trail listed as moderate in my opinion because of the length. I wouldn't say the trails are marked too well though. My wife and I went on this trail accidentally...we were intending to do the Deep Creek Loop Trail and save this for another day. One way or another, we ended up doing this trail as well on the same day. Needless to say, pack some water and maybe some snacks. Not suitable for children just because of the length alone. The views accessible on this trail more than made up for the extra hiking we did.

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Breck Blanchard
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Hiking

Not a bad trail, read the prior review and camped out with a buddy at spot 58. It was a generous lot right next to the creek, great advice! He was right about the horses, there's crap everywhere. During this hike you'll always be either dodging spiderwebs or horse droppings. I should have waited longer to do this hike, we hiked to the top of the ridge but didn't get the satisfaction of a nice view because the foliage was still too think. Would recommend this loop for a winter hike definitely! Trails are well marked.

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Michael Thames
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Hiking

Contrary to the "Double Diamond" designation for this trail, the Deep Creek Trail has terrain ranging from very easy to moderate to quite difficult. There are several trails to choose from. If you want a leisurely pace next to the creek/river, there is a trail which can fit four people wide that goes for at least 2-3 miles. The waterfall trail, which I would rate more moderate in difficulty, can fit 1-2 people wide. There are a couple off-shoot trails that are a great deal more difficult with steep inclines and not very wide at all, as with the unmarked Gravestone Trail (keep going past the waterfall until you see a trail going up the mountainside - there are some old graves at the top of the mountain). The trails are in good condition, with only few spots which require creative adjustment (such as when crossing a creek on the more difficult trails). The spots that are muddied on the moderate trails are very easy to avoid, and you shouldn't worry about getting all dirty. There are a couple of "trails" that tease of adventure, only to pitter into nothing in the overgrowth. Otherwise, my wife and I spent a pleasant 4+ hours enjoying the scenery. Deep Creek is a great destination for trail runners, families out for a walk, day hikers, primitive campers/backpackers, *kayakers (class 2-3 rapids) and even has the option for family tubing down the river. Plenty to see and do.

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Joel Johnson
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Hiking
First to Review

On April 6, "Side Effect" and I departed Bryson City, NC to begin a 13.7 mile overnight loop of Deep Creek, Martin's Gap and Sunkota Ridge trails. What a trip! The mileage is conflicting, as multiple sources cite different distances. I hope to purchase my own GPS device by the next trip so that I can get an accurate measurement. We began around 13:00 at Deep Creek Trail (1,800 feet) with a long afternoon of uphill climbing. The views were magnificent! Side Effect saw Tom Branch Falls for the first time. I've been visiting Deep Creek since I was two weeks old, so the falls are not new to me, but they never get old. After lingering there for a bit, we continued our ascent up Deep Creek Trail. I showed Side Effect all of the spots that were landmarks for me as a child. We made it to the third bridge, and not much later to the junction of Indian Creek Trail and Deep Creek Trail. Deep Creek Trail is also a horse trail. According to the map, the horse access should have ended about mile up the trail, but apparently it doesn't. We had to contend with muddy pits and horse poop the entire time. That took away a bit of the luster. At times, we had to climb onto the edge of the trail (it was elevated on both sides for much of the way) just to be able to pass. It's horrible that the trail is in such deplorable condition. We passed by two snakes on this stretch, from which I valiantly saved Side Effect's life (insert eye roll): a ring snake and what we believe is a garter snake, but may be a southern crowned snake. Neither were venomous, but we were now on high alert! Along the way, we passed by backcountry campsite 60. I believe it is around the 2.5 mile mark. I would love to plan a trip and stay there. It was right on the creek, and the folks there were lounging in chairs, while the kids ran around. It is a very secluded spot. Hours later, we arrived at backcountry sites 59 (4.8 miles) and 58 (5.2 miles). 58 was the nicer of those two. Around this time, we were ready for our day to end. At around 5.8 (or 6.6, depending on the source) miles, we arrived at site 57, our home for the night. We set up camp, had supper (MRE meatballs for me, chili-mac for Side Effect), and crashed EARLY! It was still daylight when we zipped up the bags. That night got much colder than we anticipated. The forecast called for 37 degrees as the low. I will vouch it was MUCH lower than that. But, we made it through the night without losing any fingers or toes. On Saturday morning, we began our ascent of the Martin's Gap Trail. It was a 1.5 mile uphill climb to the intersection of Sunkota Ridge Trail. Originally, we had planned to hike to the Indian Creek Trail and make our descent there, but we decided to take Sunkota instead. Sunkota Ridge Trail ascends to 3,400 feet and back down over a 3.8 mile stretch. It tricked us a few times. We thought we had reached the summit of the ridge, only to find we had to continue climbing. When we finally reached the highest point and realized it was all downhill from there (pardon the trite expression), we were grateful. Our packs began to multiply in weight, at one point weighing 4.2 tons each. Our feet were killing us! Side Effect decided at one point to switch out her boots for flip-flops (I did not recommend it). We finished up the Sunkota Ridge trail with no major injuries to speak of. We arrived at the Loop Trail and took a left, a 0.5 mile connector to Indian Creek Trail. After merging onto Indian Creek Trail, we had about 0.7 miles to the intersection of Indian Creek Trail and Deep Creek Trail, by which we had passed the day before. Side Effect was able to see Indian Creek Falls for the first time. I told her about people using it as a natural waterslide at times. Do they still do this? I encouraged her to make an attempt, but she declined. We took a break by Deep Creek to rest our feet, then walked down the gravel road to the car. What a hike! Our feet will never be the same again.

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Charlotte Martin
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Frank Cooper
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Miranda Rawson
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Frank Cooper
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Nathan Martin
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Bill Guiffre
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Chris Derajtys
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Frank Cooper
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Joe Carver
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Chuvk Weyant
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