DISTANCE
30.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
5,698 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

no dogs

backpacking
3 months ago

Check out our video of this hike here: https://youtu.be/YLY6yx6LmkQ

After driving 9 hours, we arrived in Gatlinburg TN. We dropped a car at the Big Creek Ranger station ending point and got a hotel in Gatlinburg for the night. The NOA in Gatlinburg has any last minute hiking supplies you might need. Then we took off for the Starting trail head at 6:30am the following day. Unfortunately we had to make this an overnight trip due to time (2 days, 1 night) which meant 16-17 mile days.

This hike starts at the New Found Gap Trailhead at about 5,000 feet. The Parking lot actually straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. I was concerned during our Easter Weekend trip that the parking lot here would be jam packed, but at 7AM on good Friday the parking was almost completely empty. However, we did notice while driving up to Newfound Gap that the Alum Caves trailhead was pretty full of cars even early in the morning.

After snapping some pictures of the Appalachian Trail sign and the sunrise from the magnificent lookout over the mountians, we began our hike. The 1st four miles to Charlies Bunion had some ascent, but were not as tough as expected. Especially with fresh legs. There were also some great lookouts along the way with far reaching views of the mountains.

When we reached the Charlies Bunion junction, the side trail was very short (maybe 50 feet) and worth every step. We we finished taking in the sights and climbing up some of the short rock faces, we headed back to the AT on the same side trail. We found out that the Charlies Bunion side trail actually loops around to meet up with the AT a little further down so we could've continued on the side trail instead of backtracking the way we came in.

Over the next 12 miles to our shelter for the night (Tri Corner Knob) we noticed very little water along the trail. Each shelter has a reliable water source, but inbetween them there were only a few unreliable trickles of water. I would recommend re-filling if you are running low and near a shelter since most of the shelters are at least 5 miles or so apart and the hiking is strenuous.

Just before we reached Tri COrner Shelter there was a long ascent that was probably the most strenuous to us. This might've been due to being exhausted from already hiking 15 or so miles, but I think it would've been difficult either way. If I did it again, I would've made this a two nighter and stopped at Pecks Corner Shelter and then at Cosby Knob or Davenport Gap Shelter. Staying at Pecks the first night would've been just right for us, Tricorner the first night had us totally exhausted, and staying at Cosby Knob the first night would've been near suicide for our abilities.

Once at the Tri Corner Shelter, we encountered a full house. This was due to the time of year and the large number of AT thru hikers on the trail in early April. However, we had permits and were able to squeeze into the bunks. The shelter was so full that there were even some hikers sleeping on the floor. The thru hikers were mostly very nice and interesting to talk with. The shelter had a fire pit, water, and convenient bear cables to hang everyone's food bags (hanging the whole pack was not feasible with the number of people).

On day 2 we were first up in the shelter at 6:30am. We departed as quietly as possible and hit the trail at 7. From here to Cosby Knob there were some good elevation gains that were much easier to tackle after a good night sleep.

When we reached the junction with the low gap trail just after cosby knob, we had to decide if we wanted to continue on the AT and go over MT. Cammerer or take low gap and avoid some elevation. We opted to check out MT. Cammerer despite being tired and immeadiately discovered that we would have to work hard for the View at MT. Cammerer. The trail picks up in elevation right after the junction and was probably one of the most strenuous portion of the trail for us.

After stopping for a quick lunch, we continued to the MT. Cammerer trail junction at about the 26 mile mark and diverted to check out the old fire tower lookout at the end of the side trail. This side trail is a bit more of an investment than the Charlie's Bunion Side trail. The round trip is an additional 1.2 miles and it is not flat. The views at Mt. Cammerer are the gold at the end of the rainbow though. I think it was probably the best view of the trip. After returning to the appalachain trail its about another 6 miles to the Big Creek Ranger station where we dropped our car. And this section is almost completely downhill. It was so much descent, we were actually hoping for some ascent at a certain point as the steep descent is very hard on the toes and feet in general. However it was quick moving.

We made it back to our car at Big Creek after taking the Chesnut Branch Side trail (more direct route).

The best tips I can give after doing this hike is:

1. Do this a