Baxter Creek Trail to Mt. Sterling

HARD 20 reviews
#17 of 96 trails in

Baxter Creek Trail to Mt. Sterling is a 12 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Hartford, Tennessee that features a river. The trail is only recommended for very experienced adventurers and primarily used for hiking, trail running, and backpacking.

DISTANCE
12.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4110 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

hiking

trail running

forest

river

views

wildlife

no dogs

hiking
21 days ago

Brought our dogs here for the first time since it stated dog friendly. However the trail isn’t dog friendly and it has a sign that has no dogs allowed on trail where it states the trail rules. The picnic area is very nice though!
Overall the hike was pretty hard. Steady incline the whole time and lots of slippery places so they are completely right when saying experienced hikers only! Scenery is beautiful with many creeks and points to lookout onto the scenery.
Would rate 5 stars if it correctly stated that dogs weren’t allowed on here :)

hiking
22 days ago

backpacking
3 months ago

We did this one with a bit of a break on our poor knees. We started at Mt. Sterling Gap. That make the hike up less than the 6 miles. I think it was about 3 and that was enough. Great up there. Go to the roof of the fire tower, weather permitting. We had our breakfast up there. Beautiful.

3 months ago

3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

I did the big creek-baxter creek loop over 2 nights and 3 days back in March 2001. It was warm and sunny at the start of the trip but there was 2' of snow at the top of Mt. Sterling and our thermometer read 13 degrees. Very demanding hike and the winds were incredible at the top. The fire tower is a must. I've always wanted to go back during warmer months. Saw very few people on the trails. Would only recommend for those in good shape.

backpacking
5 months ago

Tough descent from Mt Sterling. Lots of downed trees. But the view and Campsite on top of Mt Sterling is worth every step. Loop it with Big Creek and you have a nice two night trip

5 months ago

great hike! I did this in 2016. climbing the fire tower at the end makes it all worth it. and sticking my feet in the creek at the end lol

hiking
5 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

Good challenging trail... about 14 down trees you will need to get over, around or under. Did a day hike started at 9am got to the old fire tower, ate lunch at the numerous camp sites and when back down to parking. Total time was 7.5 hrs. 1st half was all up, 2nd half all down. Hard on the knees but good training if you plan on doing long hikes such as AT. Not much to see on the way up since it felt like a green tunnel. On the top you only really have a view on top of the fire tower since the top is pretty woody. Good Water source is found around half mile or less from the top incase you run out like I did. There was a construction crew next to the tower when i was there. Working on solar panels so it wasn't quiet, as they had their country music going. Overall good challenging trail. Did not see a soul on the trail the whole time until the top.

hiking
7 months ago

First off, I have to agree with the most recent review. There are a lot of downed trees from recent storms across the trail. Some of the trees have very large trunks and others have the canopy stretched across the trail.

I have hiked this trail on many occasions using it as a great way to train for big mountains. What makes this trail unique relative to all other trails in the Smokies is that it is pretty much all up from once you cross the footbridge at Big Creek. There may be one or two small areas where it levels out or drops a couple of feet but no more than maybe a stretch of 100 feet in distance. It is truly all up the whole way until you reach the base of the fire tower. I think the only reason this is not rated one of the hardest hikes in the Smokies is because the LeConte trails include a tremendous amount of up-and-down that is not reflected in the total elevation change from trail start to trail end. However once reaching the summit, it is well worth the hike. The panoramic view from the fire tower is outstanding. If you don't want to do the turn around and head back down, the Mount sterling trail is a great option. You have to run a shuttle of two cars. However I have found over the years that the amount of time it takes to drop the second car is not much different than the time it takes to get back down.

Once you leave the footbridge, you are pretty much in dense forest on a very well travelled trail. Occasional creek crossings makes for a nice touch. During the summer the trail is very lush and green to it sides with an occasional view out into the rest of the Smokies. At about 2 miles in you cross under a dense rhododendron stand and walk under a canopy of leaves for probably 200 to 300 feet. It is truly gorgeous. In about the last mile and a half you start to crest out on the Ridgeline and walk among very dense moss covered rocks. If you plan to overnight on the summit, be forewarned it is a greater distance to the water source than most trail maps indicate.

backpacking
8 months ago

6.1 miles to the top. The trail had a few downed trees and one particularly large and difficult to navigate tree down about halfway up. The view at the top is amazing and makes a great overnight spot to set up shop. The climb was very strenuous and by far more difficult than I had expected.

8 months ago

hiking
Sunday, November 27, 2016

Great climb, beautiful trail. Rhododendron tunnels.

Monday, October 03, 2016

hiking
Saturday, September 10, 2016

backpacking
Saturday, August 20, 2016

as mentioned, the hike is not for the faint of heart... also when you see the sign for water near the top, that really is the only place to filter.

took Baxter to sterling Ridge to gunter fork to big Creek for a 2 night loop. Really need to watch out for gunter fork it's a can be very dangerous as many portions are washed out and not maintained. would suggest shallow fork if you're hesitant.

hiking
Monday, May 09, 2016

An ass-kickier, but totally worth it!

hiking
Sunday, January 03, 2016

Fantastic day hike (or overnight as camping is available on Mt Sterling) to celebrate the new year. It is actually an in/out of 12.4 miles. 4000 feet of elevation gain on he way up. All up hill... Then all down. Difficult and not for a beginner hiker, but spectacular views for all... Especially from the fire tower on a clear day (today). Lots of rocks and roots in portions of the trail and it needs some trail maintenance, but if you are a sucker for a long hike, as we are, you can't go wrong!

hiking
Friday, October 25, 2013

We completed a 3 day hike going up Big Creek to camp site 37, then the Swallow Fork trail to camp site 38 at Mt Steerling, and back down Baxter Creek trail. It's a beautiful area of the park and the trails and camp sites are well maintained. The trail is strenuous.