Explore the most popular horseback riding trails near Townsend with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

8 days ago

A challenging hike well worth the views from Rocky Top.

13 days ago

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.

19 days ago

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.

Great trail. Very much enjoyed the river along the trail. There were many beautiful cascades and small falls along the way. Learned lots of history about the area from our knowledgeable guide. Great day hike for families, but a bit long for small children. Indian Flats Falls was beautiful. Well worth the hike.

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

25 days ago

Nice trail. Not too strenuous, but still a decent workout if you keep a good pace. The trail looks like it was an old road at one time, so it's very wide and in good shape, overall.

Very tough trail for the occasional hiker. Round trip took about 6 hours. views were fantastic at the top even with cloud cover. Bring plenty of water and snacks along with a blanket or eno to enjoy the views at the top

This is one heck of a hard hike! 13.4 miles in and out. Saw a rattler around mile 4 and had to wait awhile for him to move on. On the way back saw a bunch of snake holes in the ground for about a mile stretch. Around the same spot as the rattler. They must really like that location. Dodged a few bears along the way. Thought we were only gonna be doing 12.2 miles, so the extra mile and some change surprised us. Took about 7.5 hours round trip. This is definitely not for the weak of heart. My husband, I and 2 kids made it the whole way. Only saw one other woman on the trail, everyone else was an adult male. No other kids. Lightly traveled, maybe 8 hikers total today. View was great, flowers were almost completely out of bloom, glad we saw a few. Would have been a great place to camp overnight. Checked this one off the bucket list. Would not go back unless flowers were in full bloom.

Great hike! I did not think it was as difficult as others have stated. Take a lunch and enjoy the view from the bald.

Great trail. We went on the 4th of July early and it was fantastic. The trailhead parking lot was a little crowded, but we never really saw anyone on the trail. Easy hike for our crew of 9 (kids were ages 6 to 14),though a little long to get to the waterfall. So glad we did though...we waded in the water and relaxed, making for a quick trip back down. Beautiful the entire way, quiet and peaceful...and lots of river distractions for the kids. Bonus was how nice and cool the hike is along the river. We were never too hot, even though the temps were in the 90's that day. Super happy!

Great hike! We encountered bear, snakes, deer, etc...great wildlife hike. It rained so we did not get to see the view from the bald (still worth it). I hiked with my two boys, 11 & 14 yrs old. It challenged them but they loved it.

The hike was beautiful with a few waterfalls along the way. There are many side paths to get better views of the river and falls as well. The last half mile or so goes past the final waterfall up an incline to a fork where it meets other trails. If you are just looking for the waterfalls and not for the next connection point I would turn around after the last waterfall that you can see from a wooden walk bridge. The bridge has no rails and is wide enough for a car to drive over. Over all good hike! I would definitely recommend bringing bug spray!!

Nice walk in the woods. Was hoping for views that other people reviewed but they must only be in the winter and fall. Saw an elk and lots of cool Fungi.

1 month ago

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.

The distances are slightly off from the trail map. From the Gregory Bald Trail/AT junction to Mollies ridge Shelter is 3.1 miles (10.1 miles total). From there to Russell Field Shelter is another 3.3 miles (13.4 total). From Russell Field Shelter to Anthony Creek Trail junction is 3.5 miles (16.9 total). Then Anthony Creek is another 1.6 miles. Following the Anthony Creek Trail back to the Cades Cove Picnic area you come across the horse campground on your left approximately .2 miles from the end. Camp #9, #10, and Russell Field Shelter were all closed on June 22, 2018 for bear activity.

Water source at Russell Field wasn't the most enticing. But not many other option along the route between Mollies Ridge and the Anthony Creek Shelter.

I also took a trip up to Gregory Bald which is .6 miles of steady climbing up from the Gregory Ridge/Gregory Bald Trail junction. The Azaleas this time of year were beautiful.

1 month ago

Between Townsend and Cades Coves, I enjoyed the trail. Steady incline up but not bad. Would have never known about Campsite 18 had it not been for two other hikers who said it was a must see. The campsite was the highlight of the hike for me. Very close to the trailhead for the Schoolhouse Gap Trail if you want a two for one.

The azaleas were really pretty but don’t go when there’s a chance of rain unless you wanna get soaked and not see the view.

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.

1 month ago

Go left at the very first fork! My partner and I went to the right and consequently about 1.5 miles out the way, you can easily get lost after the first .7 if you decide to go right. We fixed our mistake and ended up having a great hike up to the ridge. Overall a great and moderate first 4 miles of the trail!

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.

This was definitely one of our favorite trails in the cades cove area. Watch for horse poo but this trail is along a stream with beautiful sounds and little waterfalls

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.

Lots of roots to trip on and not much to see as you go up as far as overlooks. Steady incline and the azaleas are amazing. Worth the hike, it was a workout!

Hard hike, beautiful at the bottom and the top. Azaleas in bloom in June.

2 months ago

Nice hike. Azaleas were in bloom so very pretty at top. Gradual elevation gain of around 3,300 feet makes it a moderate hike.

We did this trail from the Cades Cove Picnic Area to Anthony's Creek to Rote Mountain to the AT.

Rocky Top is amazing, Thunderhead is less so but still a beautiful view. This is a worthwhile, 14-mile hike. The mountain laurel and flame azaleas are starting to bloom. Raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes are common on the AT before Rocky Top.

Wonderful hike in the back of Cades cove with views of the valley. First half of the trip follows the stream until the campsite, then a steady uphill climb to the top. Flame azaleas in mid June are worth the trip.

2 months ago

This trail is very easy to access from Townsend. While this trail can't boast of the spectacular views that some others can, it was quiet and enjoyable. Backcountry Campsite 18 was a great spot to relax. The rhododendrons were in bloom.

A gorgeous hike. It starts off next to a rushing creek with many bridges and waterbeds to cross (wear boots- almost wore my sneakers to save my older boots the wear and tear, but I was thankful I opted boots once I hit a few spots where you're forced into shallow mud or water.) After you leave the rushing waters it pretty much a gradual uphill with some areas steeper than others but there was usually always a slight reprieve somewhere. The whole route in general is fairly smooth. At the very end toward the bald I would say it was the steepest and had some loose rock but nothing serious. I loved the different environments the trail enters and even with a packed parking lot, the trail was secluded and we rarely came across anyone. Overall, I would say if you are in okay shape (can walk on the treadmill for extended amounts of time at above a 10 incline) then this is actually a moderate trail. One last thing.. LEAVE EARLY TO GET THERE!! I did not look at the route to drive in.. did not realize it makes you take the one way loop through Cades Cove... so if you leave late.. you will arrive very very late ( and frustrated). Also the Azaleas are blooming right now!

on Middle Prong Trail

2 months ago

Great hike with our grandkids (ages 6 and 8). Trail is wide with a gradual incline so we rate it as easy. Beautiful views of the creek running beside the trail and we loved the waterfalls.

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