Great hike out of Cosby Campground. Steady climbing all the way up Snake Den Ridge. Snake Den offered a few subtle views, but no stellar overlooks. It’s all steady down Maddron Bald which is a neat stretch that offers slightly better views. Albright Grove loop featured a lot of old growth and large trees. Gabe’s Mountain trail had some ups and downs but mostly easy hiking. Hen Wallow Falls was much larger than I anticipated, and a great place to have a snack. This is also the most crowded stretch as it is only 2.2 miles from the campground. My suunto ambit clocked the loop at 19.75 miles (including the walking through the campground and an additional 1.4 I added by going all the way up to the AT). Long for a day hike, but a great walk and much less crowded than the hikes in the more popular areas of the park. An early start afforded me the opportunity to spend the first 2 hours and 45 minutes (~7 miles) without seeing anyone.
Bottom line: nothing in this hike is overwhelmingly spectacular, but the climbing, the wide spectrum of vegetation and a waterfall allows this hike to truly embody the Smokies.