Rocky Top from Lead Cove Trailhead

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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.

Distance: 10.5 miles Elevation Gain: 3,864 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

horseback riding

bird watching

running

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no dogs

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".

hiking
rocky
19 days ago

This is a great and difficult trail. Be warned — this hike is a 14 mile hike NOT 10.5. It requires good fitness, adequate water and I’d budget 6-9 hours. Views can’t be beat. Wear shoes with good ankle support because it’s rocky. The last mile before the summit is killer but the views are worth it.

hiking
blowdown
icy
muddy
no shade
snow
3 months ago

Views from Rocky Top are stellar. Had lunch with some AT through hikers. Weather was absolutely perfect.

hiking
icy
rocky
5 months ago

absolutely loved it

hiking
rocky
snow
5 months ago

Very tough going up, even tough coming back down. made it to the rocky top in about 4 hours, and about 3 hours coming back down. pushed hard to make time and really felt it. Only saw 9 people. Snow on ground right before Appalachian trail. The top was very a spectacular view.

6 months ago

AMAZING. Most challenging hike I've done in the park but it's worth it. This was my second time up and it really helped to be in some semblance of shape. I almost didn't make it up the final ascent last time, but this time it didn't seem so bad. This remains my favorite day hike in the park. There's some ups and downs at the top and one may be tempted to think they've reached the destination at Spence Field, but you'll know it without a doubt when you've reached the 360 degree views of Rocky Top, so keep going. In the Autumn, Bote Mountain and Lead Cove were difficult with all the rocks on the trail being covered by leaves, so watch your step. Once you hit the AT, it's more straightforward but steep. Despite being the shortest hike I did, this one took the longest. Left at 830, finished at 430, probably spent an hour up top (including an excursion to try to find the original Rocky Top rock, which I'm not sure still exists but is supposedly halfway between Rocky Top and the Thunderhead peak).

hiking
7 months ago

Great trail, the vertical is very challenging. The hike in the fall is absolutely amazing. Was lucky with the weather last week. Started at 9:30 am, finished at 2:30pm. First 3.5mi did not run into anyone else on trail. Maybe a total of 12ppl the entire hike. Highly recommend.

hiking
rocky
9 months ago

The best view of the smokies. Seen bears and Cubs. Heard many coyotes close bye as well. Last mile to top was the hardest but def. worth the struggle. Not one sign points you to Rocky top, so download your all trails app.

hiking
10 months ago

As some others have said this is a good challenge, based on our fit bit reading we think this hike is longer than the 10.5 stated. It took us 6.5 hrs to complete. When we were near the top we heard a grunt and the bush shake. Did not see it but heard it. At rocky top the views were hindered by some clouds but from time to time we could appreciate the view. Also the honey bees were distracting at the top they would not leave us alone. If you want to test yourself this is a good hike for you. We started at 7:30 am and saw only a few hikers till we turned at the AT.

hiking
10 months ago

we saw 5 bears within 10 feet of us throughout our hike! we started at 9 am and finished at 7 30 pm! very hard hike! view at the top was great! we hiked to honor my friend who was killed in Afghanistan on monday, we had a flag at the top! rocks/roots all over trail whole way up after first .5 miles so be mindful!

hiking
10 months ago

Not a lot of views until you get to the last half mile to mile of the trail. We saw a few snakes up at the top, so be careful. It's an excellent forested hike and the steady uphill is challenging, especially towards the end. It took us about 4 hours up with fairly frequent but very short breaks and 2 hours down with no breaks.

backpacking
Thu Jun 06 2019

Rocky Top offers amazing views. This is a must-hike if you're in the Smokies.

hiking
Sat May 25 2019

This is one of those trails, where first 3/4 of way towards the top you don't see anything but forest. The terrain is not too rocky, but the length and 3800 feet of elevation can be strenuous. We hiked it for about 6-7 hours. The last 1/4 of the way to the top is very pretty. In high season, you only meet a moderate number of hikers, which makes it a good option for an intermediate/advanced hiker who does not like crowds. As for rhododendrones, we were there too early to see them blooming (don't expect to see them on this trail at the end of may).

Just went to Spence Field. Beautiful hike but the Bote Mountain trail is brutal!

hiking
Fri Apr 19 2019

This is a great hike, we had perfect weather and awesome views. Took about seven hours to complete, including spending about an hour on Rocky Top eating lunch and enjoying the views. We passed a few people on the trail, mainly AT through hikers. There was alot more sun than I was expecting early in Spring so be prepared with a hat or sunblock. My only gripe is that we were a few weeks too early to see any wild flowers but it was still a beautiful hike that is only mildly challenging if you're in decent shape.

Tue Feb 05 2019

5+ miles up hill. some decent views. once was enough for me.

Tue Jan 29 2019

Although the trail wasn’t steep, it was a little of a leg and butt smoker. Steady incline all the way to the top. Once you get to the top, the view is beautiful. Would love to do this in the spring. A few icy spots along the way and very rocky trail. FYI We met a gentleman on the trail who mentioned the top being overran with Copperheads in the summer, so be careful.

hiking
Sun Dec 30 2018

Did it Saturday, very very tough hike. Steep the whole way up to Spence field. Great views there, the last mile to Rocky Top is a butt kicker! I hike every week and done most of the hard hikes in the Smokys and this is number 1 or 2. As hard as Rainbow falls to Leconte if not tougher. Worth it, good views and good bragging rights. Too us almost 7 hours up and back with very short breaks.

Thu Dec 13 2018

saw the eclipse from here back in 2017, saw it today w the ridge covered in half a foot of snow and ice fog, amazing both times

Mon Dec 03 2018

Best hike in TN so far ! Steady slope on the way up ... last mile might be a bit more rough but the view at the top is so worth it just stunning ! 3 hrs up 2 hrs down Enjoy !

hiking
Thu Oct 11 2018

The hike is rough but it is well worth it. Bring plenty of water and some snacks and you will be fine. Spend plenty time of there because you are not going to want to leave!

hiking
Sat Aug 11 2018

A challenging hike well worth the views from Rocky Top.

hiking
Sun Aug 05 2018

good lordy is this a thigh burner. first mile isnt bad but then its a constant incline. my camp site was over ran by bees so i just pushed to rocky top and thunder head. well worth the push. the blue haze and smokey clouds that roll in are worth an hour long site to embrace.

hiking
Mon Jul 30 2018

We took off via the Lead Cove trail head, and only ran into a few people before reaching the Bote Mountain split. It is a climb from start to finish. Spence Field is a great place to take a break before heading on up to Rocky Top, where the view is amazing. We spent more time up there than we meant to. I knew what I was getting into with this hike, but it was still very challenging. Prepare for a long difficult trip if you aren't in excellent shape. My tracker also said that it was 12.8 instead of 11.6 round trip so keeping up with that threw me off a little bit.

hiking
Fri Jul 06 2018

ATTENTION: If you take the Lead Cove trail you will see bears guaranteed. They are harmless but on the way back down I walked within 5 feet of one in a laurel thicket before we noticed each other. Be aware of your surroundings This is a great hike for multiple reasons. Before I explain why it’s important to know there are multiple ways to eventually reach Rocky Top. The description on here will take up the Lead Cove trail which is the route I took. The other way which people have reviewed on here is to start on the Anthony Creek trail near Cades Cove. Both are lightly traveled compared to most trails in the Smokies, but Lead Cove trail is less traveled. The first time I tried to complete this trail was a late evening hike in which I walked up on a momma bear and cub. They were no threat, but they would only walk away not run... and stayed on the trail. They slowed me down so much that I had to hike back down as I was not going to make it to the summit before dark. I completed it finally this week. I saw 0 people the first 3 miles up lead cove to Bote Mountain trail. I met one person at the Anthony Creek trail intersection. The hike has a gradual elevation gain all the way from the Trailhead to the AT. This portion is not difficult at all if you do any hiking at all. Once on the AT the climb to Rocky Top is constantly steep and moderately strenuous. There are 360 views at the top which includes views of Fontana Lake and Dam. This hike is great for avid hikers who actually enjoy hiking and not taking essentially a group walk through the woods with tons of people.

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