Rich Mountain Loop Trail is a 8.6 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Townsend, Tennessee that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Rich Mountain Loop Trail is a great way to enjoy Cades Cove without the crowds. The trail starts at the beginning of the Loop Road, skirts the edge of some fields before reaching the John Oliver Cabin. It then climbs toward the crest of Rich Mountain then continues on to Indian Grave Gap Trail and Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. Its a good place to see deer and the occasional black bear.
We hiked the trail on a counterclockwise loop. We saw deer, ground squirrel, gray squirrel. We also heard turkey and owl and saw evidence of bear and raccoon. The hike is amazing. It is only moderate in difficulty and the views of Townsend and Cades Cove are fantastic.
Beautiful colors, very dry, such a nice hike across the ridge, not many hikers
**Facilities are at the Cades Cove Campgrounds**
Hiked October 27, 2016
I absolutely loved this hike. This loop is totally underrated. I choose to trek it clockwise....I didn't feel like taking on Crooked Arm Ridge, up hill.
You will pass by John Oliver's cabin, built in 1818, which is a treat to have a little structural history thrown in to the hike. As much as I REALLY wanted to see a bear (I mean, it IS Cades Cove, and they are everywhere)...much to my dismay, I did not. Tons of squirrels, but zero bears.
Up on Indian Grave Gap, you will see an unmarked trail heading to your left (if you're hiking clockwise)...this will take you up to the spot where three cement blocks are all that remains of the old Rich Mountain fire tower. Keep an eye out to your left, on this little trail, and you will see a cistern, all that's left of a cabin that sat in that area used by the fire tower watchmen.
The fall colors are popping....and it's a gorgeous trail to view them with.
Great fall hike with views of Cades Cove to the south
Not my favorite trail: the views in spring are few and far between, and after all the hype around the wildflowers I was disappointed at how few there were on the trail (keep in mind it's been unseasonably cool this month, and the flowers that were there were amazing).
Still this was a strenuous but nice hike. Wanna see the old fire tower next time (was too tired to go the short-but-steep trail to it), but Oliver Cabin is pretty cool. Plus there was so much wildlife out: saw 3 deer grazing on the trail itself, and a turkey adjacent to the trailhead. Plus found a baby black bear as I was leaving. Overall might not be something I hike often, but I will do it again
When I hiked this trail, the Rich Mountain shelter was fairly new, and the fire tower was still there. My first bear encounter came when a bear visited our camp at the shelter during the night and licked the rocks where we had cooked a chicken. From that time on, I have made it a point to NEVER cook in camp in bear country. We climbed the fire tower early the next morning before daylight and Pigeon Forge's new yellow street lights were beautiful in the fog. (In those days, Pigeon Forge had a campground, an Indian and a bear...and not much more) When the sun came up, Cades Cove looked like a giant bowl of milk topped with a rainbow. That image is burned into my memory forty years later...
The drive was great. We saw beautiful meadows with wild flowers and smoky mountains as backdrop. We also saw three bear cubs greasing the grass.
Sadly, some of the visitors are too selfish to give the cubs their space and move on from them, causing a huge 2 hour long traffic jam over a 1.5 miles part of the entire drive.
Victoria 'Vicki' Q.
This is a great hike with exceptional views in the winter!! You can do a loop hike and have lunch at an old Fire Tower Spot with great views of Townsend.