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Rich Mountain Loop Trail

MODERATE 68 reviews

Rich Mountain Loop Trail is a 8.3 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.

8.3 miles
1,991 feet

kid friendly




horseback riding

nature trips

trail running


bird watching




wild flowers



no dogs

As of June 2018, users have reported that a section of this trail is closed. 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. It's a good place to see deer and the occasional black bear.

trail running
12 days ago

This is a great loop to get some decent elevation gain. I started at Rich Mountain Road and including the loop, got over 4K feet of gain and it clocked in just over 12 miles. Views are great with leaves off but are probably obstructed in late spring and summer. Trail was in great shape and it was rainy when I ran the loop but still managed to keep my feet mostly dry. Great trail!

1 month ago

Pleasant hike that provides a different perspective of Cades Cove and Townsend. Most people recommend hiking the loop clockwise to enjoy a slower, steady climb to the ridge vs. the steep uphill climb of Crooked Arm Ridge. We opted to hike counterclockwise to save our knees the trouble of going downhill on the steepest section. The ridge was very windy, but had beautiful views. I imagine this trail isn't as scenic when trees have foliage. Several trees down on the trail, but nothing impassable.

2 months ago

Be sure to check if certain parts of the trail are closed due to weather or trees down. Certainly a gorgeous hike anytime of the year. Less traveled in winter it seems.

3 months ago

Parts of the loop were closed today. Signs warn you at the start of the loop. You can still do an up and back if you go left at the sign. Lots of easy creek crossings. Great way to spend Black Friday this morning.

4 months ago

Can combine this with Rich Mt beginning @ Rich Mt Rd & create a 12mi loop with plenty of elevation gain & loss. Good for trail running.

Nice trail, not much to see until you get on top of the ridge, then beautiful. Saw two on the trail. Pretty cool.

8 months ago

We really enjoyed this hike away from the crowds at Cades Cove. It is certainly the trail less traveled. We came across a good bit of wildlife, including mother bear and cubs, deer, wild turkeys, and frogs. The wild flowers were nice and in some spots there are great long range views. This hike is pretty strenuous and you’ll want to be sure to take plenty of water if you hike in summer.

8 months ago

This trail was great. It’s within walking distance to cafes cove camp ground right across from a visiting center with trail maps. Trail is marked really well and easy to follow. Definitely on the upper scale of moderate a lot of elevation. We saw a lot of bear poo on the trail but no bears.

9 months ago

Overall good experience. Had to turn back halfway due to part of trail being closed off. Very quiet. Our group was only ones on trail during that time.

9 months ago

Did this in January '18. Went counter clockwise due to not getting started until noon. Pretty steep for the first 2 miles. Had campsite 6 all to myself which was awesome. With no leaves I had a few good views, but don't expect much with leaves on.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Beautiful trail in Cades Cove! Hiked this trail on 5/7. No snow at start but by the time we got to the top the trail and mountain was snow covered. The trail markings are confusing for this loop trail so I was grateful for this app as it helped keep us on the right route. The first mile to John Oliver’s cabin was easy but from there is goes up for the next couple miles followed by a nice downhill finish. Nice views of the Cove and Valley definitely worth the hike if your in Cades Cove!

trail running
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Great trail to do circuit runs if you’re so inclined, otherwise a nice and peaceful loop to hike year round while avoiding the crowds.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

This is a very good hike that both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed! It was overcast, but beautiful non-the-less. We decided winter is a great time to do this hike because with the leaves off the trees, the views of Cades Cove and the valley toward Townsend were spectacular. Not sure the hike would be the same with full foliage on the trees. Took us about 5 hours to complete.
Unmarked side trail to the old fire tower location and cistern was worth the 2 minutes to walk up...great views!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Beautiful trail. This is the perfect trail for a quiet, moderate workout. The creek is wonderfully peaceful.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Great hike all together. I parked at the top of Rich Mountain and entered the trailhead from the top location. The parking area can be accessed from both Townsend or Caves Cove. Be prepared for a continuous incline/decline throughout the hike loop . I was looking forward to seeing Crooked Arm Cascades while on the trail but it was pretty much dry and non existent due to the lack of rain.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Good tough clime but a very enjoyable hike.

horseback riding
Saturday, May 27, 2017

Poor view and too much poop. The actual hike is pretty but not worth the trouble.

Monday, February 20, 2017

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.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Beautiful colors, very dry, such a nice hike across the ridge, not many hikers

Friday, October 28, 2016

**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.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Great fall hike with views of Cades Cove to the south

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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...

Monday, May 25, 2015

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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

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.

8 days ago

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