Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion

MODERATE 239 reviews

Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion is a 8.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November.

DISTANCE
8.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2086 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

blowdown

old growth

rocky

snow

washed out

no dogs

Nice hike along the summit of the Smokies, with views of Charles Bunion. The trail starts off with a gradual ascent of about 300 feet in the first mile. For the most part, the trail is tree covered, but there are a few views on the way to the Ice Water Spring-AT shelter. The shelter is one of the nicer structures along the AT in North Carolina. It sleeps 12, but a permit and reservation are required through the Park Service. Some of the comments in the AT logbook note that Elk have been seen in this area. The trail continues onto a side trail about a mile north of the shelter. This trail is well marked and goes left to Charles Bunion. This is a large rock out cropping created years ago by a fire, rain and subsequent landslide.

1 day ago

Beautiful view. The trail isn't too crowded but you will see people. We did this trail around 2 on a Thursday we saw about 15 people at the summit. When you get to the end of the trail at the sign that says Charlie's Bunion Closely Control Children, if you head to the right you can get to a higher secluded vantage point.

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3 days ago

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5 days ago

Awesome hike. Rainy and cloudy so we missed the views. Will be back!

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5 days ago

Pretty decent hike to the top. The view was beautiful but a storm rolled in and we couldn't see a ton. Then it started raining on us on the way down. Crazy time but super fun!

6 days ago

This was a great start to a hiking vacation, challenging and the Bunion scenery was spectacular.

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6 days ago

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13 days ago

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15 days ago

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21 days ago

This was a great hike out to Charlie's Bunyan!! Very rocky trail with an occasional view point. A sturdy shoe is highly recommended. We backpacked a lunch out to the Bunyan and enjoyed the views while we ate.

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23 days ago

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24 days ago

The first 2.5 miles of this hike are pretty grueling. It's all uphill with no downhill or level moments to break up the climb. The grade is gradual though rocky and rooty in some places, which are almost a relief from the monotony of the climb. The forest is beautiful, passing through a couple of ecological zones, but the views are limited in the summer, even at the high elevation. After the Boulevard trail the AT begins to descend, passing a privy, shelter, and Spring on the way down. At around 3.5 miles grand views begin to open up and you realize why this portion of the trail is so popular. Finally, when you turn on the Charlie's Bunion spur trail you enter another world entirely, unlike anything I have ever seen. The trail is bordered on one side with a rhododendron hedge in full bloom in June, backed by a high rock wall. To the left is a steep drop offering views deep down into the valley and across to the towering Kephart Mountain and the The Jumpoff. Songbirds abound and red squirrels scurry about. The Bunion itself is a geological wonder, and a climb atop makes you feel you are dangling out over this deep crevasse with views of surrounding mountain from 200 degrees to 160 degrees. Behind you is a lumpy rock face with wildflowers growing in the cracks. Around the corner are the Sawteeth Mountains, with vegetation broken up by sharp jutting rock "teeth" down the slope. The trail tunnels through rock overhangs and rhododendron. It's spectacular, and appropriately busy.

The hike back is almost as grueling. The first half mile is level with grand views, but passes quickly high on the destination. The hike back up to the Boulevard Trail intersection and a half mile beyond is another steady and monotonous uphill slog, though it doesn't last as long as the initial climb. The last 2.5 miles are all down hill, giving you the ability to enjoy the forest as the trail descends. The long downhill is rough on the knees but a welcome change of pace.

In summation, Charlie's Bunion is a wonder and well worth the hike, but I think I will skip the day hike in the future and make it a highlight of a backpacking trip to reduce the monotony. If backpacking isn't an option do the day hike, it's a must see destination. The trailhead is extremely crowded, impossible to find parking on the weekend and extremely busy at noon on a Wednesday when I started this hike. The crowd thins considerably a half mile up the mountain, but seclusion is nowhere to be found.

*For those looking at my hike recording there is a glitch on the hike in, a squared off section that shows me going off trail. This didn't happen, and it throws off my numbers. The hike is exactly 8 miles round trip, and about 1600ft elevation gain. I started the hike at 12:30pm and got back to the trailhead about 6pm, taking two significant breaks.

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24 days ago

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24 days ago

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26 days ago

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29 days ago

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29 days ago

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29 days ago

You'll see clear signs to Charlies Bunion. At the top, it splits. You can go right and then take the first left off trail up the hill. Thats the top of the bunion. Or you can just stay left and go to the Bunion and then rock climb to the top like I did. Great views either way.

1 month ago

1 month ago