Rocky Top from Lead Cove Trailhead is a 10.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Townsend, Tennessee that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, bird watching, and horses and is best used from March until November. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Length10.5 miElevation gain3,864 ftRoute typeOut & back
HikingHorseback ridingBird watchingrunningForestViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyNo dogs
Description
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Getting There

This route is a combination of Lead Cove Trail, Bote Mountain Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. This hike will begin on the Lead Cove Trail, which will follow the creek and then turns and follows the ridge. At 1.8 mi you will turn right on Bote Mountain Trail. This trail has been used since the early 1830s and was developed as a road during the 1850s. At 3.0 mi the trail intersects with the Anthony Creek Trail and you can see a huge open area, which until the late 1960s you could drive your car here and a short hike to Spence Field. You will continue on the Bote Mountain Trail. At 4.7 miles you intersect with the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and rising above you is Rocky Top. Over the next mile you will go up and down through some wooded area before you pop out in a rocky bare spot that will offer you 360-degree views. From one spot you can see Fontana Lake, Clingmans Dome, Mount LeConte and Cades Cove. Return via same route. The route to Rocky Top from Anthony Creek Trail is also on AllTrails - "Rocky Top via Anthony Creek Trail".

GSMNP 865-436-1200

Preferred route: I-40 (Knoxville) to 140 East to 129 South follow signs to 411N/321N then continue on 321N to 73 East and you will enter the GSMNP. Turn right on Laurel Creek Road 5.5 miles west of Townsend "Y". Lead Cove Trail on the left. **Horses are allowed to the AT and then south but not north to Rocky Top**

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Reviews (195)
Photos (603)
Recordings (131)
Completed (502)
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Liam Kelleher
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 13, 2021
HikingMuddySnow

Definitely not easy, but the view was well worth it. Thick clouds and fog until the last mile at which points I was above the clouds which looked really cool. The top still has a couple inches of snow, but the rest is getting quite sloppy and muddy as snow melts.

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Sam Patterson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 10, 2021
HikingGreat!Snow

Long climb to top, got colder and more snowy as I went higher. The view was amazing, could see on top of clouds

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VJ Jared
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 5, 2021
Hiking

Excellent trail. Very strenuous and uphill all the way to the top. Too cloudy for views, but snow and ice-draped trees were gorgeous. Worth the climb.

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Tommy Loughran
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Hiking
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Jim Miller
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HikingIcy

The first 3 miles were ok but the last 3.5 miles to the top were very tough. Coming down wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Total time 6:46.

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Gabriel Miller
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Hiking
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Todd Gillespie
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Hiking

Very strenuous hike but well worth it, especially on a clear day. Views at Spence Field are very minimal due to overgrowth. Rocky Top and Thunderhead are both amazing.

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Larry Masuno
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Hiking

Awesome. What an experience The views at rocky top made it all worth it

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Ryan McNally
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 28, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

Great hike. Weather was fantastic for late November. Be prepared for a strenuous climb. The ascent take twice as long as the descent. The views from the top are worth it.

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Lukas V
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 16, 2020
HikingGreat!

The trail was definitely not an easy one. Definitely on the harder end. It is a pretty consistent incline the entire time but the views at the end were definitely worth it. It also takes a good amount of time to complete.

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Jacob Skeens
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 15, 2020
Hiking

Closer to 11.4 total miles with a pretty steep elevation gain. Trail is not marked well so make sure you either have a map or screenshot of the directions. Would not recommend starting this hike late and coming down in the dark. View from top is very pretty and is a worth while hike.

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Theresa Lavancha
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Hiking
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Tim Hirschauer
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Hiking
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Brent Tucker
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HikingGreat!
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Steven Heck
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Hiking
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Robert McDaniel
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Hiking

Forgot to stop recording at the end of the hike. From Lead Cove to the summit of Thunderhead and back. Awesome views.

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Renae Martin
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HikingRocky

Finished this trail with a side trek to Spence shelter and headed towards thunderhead, but we were concerned about daylight, so didn't get all the way there. Rocky top was a bit crowded, but great views. Bote trail is very rocky and footing is annoying.

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Nathan Hokenson
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HikingGreat!

Absolutely amazing views on the top of Rocky Top, the trail is tough but well worth the views.

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Rob Saperstein
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Hiking
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Mark Bass
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HikingGreat!

Excellent hike with big payoffs on the views. Two tips: 1) make sure you have hiking/trekking poles. They really help with the climb and decent. 2) Choose a super sunny day to hike. You don’t want to put in all that effort and not get the views.

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Kayla Holst
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 3, 2020
Hiking

Steady uphill but very manageable! We continued on from Rocky top to thunderhead and the views there were panoramic and breath taking! Highly recommend. It only adds another ~1 mile to trip.

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Tom .
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Jeff Davis
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Hiking

Excellent although strenuous hike. I am age 64, hiked with my 39 year old son-in-law. Took us 4 hr 50 minutes round trip. It is definitely a continuous climb for basically 5.5 miles. Unfortunately we had a gloomy rainy day, do no views at all. We plan to hike it again on a clear day.

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Hannah LaFary
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CampingGreat!Rocky

Difficult but beautiful. We really enjoyed this trail. A steady uphill climb with a couple of places of flatter terrain to catch your breath. The campsite options are few and not well marked, so plan ahead if you’re camping. We camped near the crest of the trail and finished the push to the top first thing in the morning, which was refreshing and rewarding. We saw two salamanders, a chipmunk, a frog, and two piles of bear poop. A lovely weekend.

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Clyde Campbell
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Hiking
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Jess Hansell
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HikingGreat!

This was definitely difficult but the view is incredible. Most of the hike is shaded by the trees, until you get to the AT. We saw a couple cubbies and a momma bear running around a corner and a snake on our way down so keep your eyes peeled for those guys. There are also quite a bit of spider webs so if you don’t like the person you’re with, make them go first. Plenty of water & snacks are needed! I made a tuna salad sandwich on rye bread (seeded), it was so delicious. Best sandwich to eat on rocky top in my opinion.

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Heather Floyd
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Hiking

This trail is super difficult, but the hard work and time pays off for the views during and at the end! It was a beautiful hike, and I feel like I got to see all kinds of terrain - streams, Forest, meadows, and elevation views.

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