Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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These points of interest appear in the order of the trip you will take around the Loop Road
01 Sparks Lane 02 John Oliver Place 03 Primitive Baptist Church 04 Methodist Church 05 Hyatt Lane 06 Missionary Baptist Church  07 Rich Mountain Road 08 Cooper Road Trail 09 Elijah Oliver Place 10 Abrams Falls 11 Cable Mill Area 12 Henry Whitehead Place 13 Nature Trail  14 Dan Lawson Place 15 Tipton Place 16 Carter Shields Cabin.



Rich Mountain Primitive Road


Cades Cove Road (Also known as Rich Mountain Road)

This road was once an Indian trail across the mountain. From 1830 to 1930, the wagon road was the main access to Cades Cove from Tuckaleechee Cove (Townsend). The one-way out road is open in the summer season, providing good views of the cove. The road leads to Dry Valley and Townsend.

 Cades Cove Road or Rich Mountain Road... An Indian trail across the mountain was the primary route into the Cove for the first settlers. In the 1830s a wagon road, known as the Cades Cove Road, was built over the mountain, and served for nearly a hundred years as the main access to Tuckaleechee. The state of Tennessee built the present road in the 1920s. It is 12 miles long, with one-way traffic to the Park boundary. Beautiful glimpses of the entire Cove are visible from the top of this road.


Just after you enter the one-way loop road, on the right you will find the Rich Mountain Trail. Parking is available on the left before you enter the one-way part. This trail is for those hikers who truly want to get away from it all. The trail makes an 8 mile loop and includes about a 1800 foot elevation gain. There are few hikers encountered on this trail and if you're lucky, you may see one of the many wild pigs which love this trail so much. One-half mile from the start of the trail, you will turn right on another trail (there will be a sign). You will then make a steep climb to the top of Rich Mountain. Just before the top, about 2 miles from the start of the trail, there will another trail you can take a right on and find campsite #6 only a few hundred yards from the trail intersection. This sight does not require reservations to camp at, but remember you must still register at the campground amphitheatre across from the ranger station if you plan to stay overnight at the site.


Back on the Rich Mountain Trail, you will finally reach the plateau where the hike levels off for about a mile and provides a few beautiful views of Cades Cove 1800 feet below. After a large opening, you will finally begin the descent down. At the bottom of the mountain, you will come to the John Oliver Cabin, a 170 year old cabin built and lived in by Cades Cove's first settler. At this cabin you will find large crowds, as you are now only .25 miles from the loop road. However, the trail continues to the left behind the cabin, and in less than a mile you will come to the first intersection of the trail where you first started. From there it is another half-mile to the beginning of the trail where your car is parked. If you hike this last half mile near sunset, you may encounter wild turkey, bear, or boar, which love this spot. Remember to keep your distance. If you plan on taking this trail it usually takes about 6 hours.


Submitted Photographs
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Distance: Rich Mountain (7.7 miles, one way), Parson Branch (12 miles, one way), Cades Cove (11 miles)
Time: 5+ hours
Rating: moderate to strenuous
Elevation: Rich Mountain Gap (1900'), Rich Mountain overlook (2600'), Cades Cove (1750'), Gregory Bald trail head on Parson Br. (2780'), US 129 (1295')
Maps: USGS Quadrangles: Kinzel Springs, Cades Cove, Calderwood, Tapoco.
Access: From US321 west of Townsend turn south on to the road to Tuckaleechee Caverns, drive up Rich Mountain Rd (Old Cades Cove Rd) to Rich Mountain Gap and park at the Park boundary.