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Cove Mountain Trail

Intermediate
 3.3 (7)

A climb skirting the park boundary to the Cove Mountain Fire Tower.


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Map Key

8.7

Miles

14.0

KM

Point to Point

4,062' 1,238 m

High

1,443' 440 m

Low

2,862' 872 m

Up

250' 76 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

17%

Max Grade (10°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

Closed when the park is closed due to weather conditions. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.

Description

The trailhead can be found behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Park Headquarters. Park at one of the parking lots and follow the trail to the Cove Mountain Trailhead.

As you begin your climb up Cove Mountain, you'll pass Cataract Falls, a small waterfall that drains into Fighting Creek and then the Little Pigeon River West Prong. Once you do a small rock hop to get past the creek, your climb begins in earnest as you approach the park boundary. The trail at this point is fairly narrow and rocky, as you pass beneath rhododendron. Within a couple of miles, you start seeing houses and cabins that sit on the other side of the park boundary, offering a glimpse of what the park would have looked like if it was not protected by the National Park Service. On the left side of the trail, views of Mount LeConte are obstructed by trees all along the trail, with no clearings to provide good photo opportunities. On the right side, the park boundary offers glimpses into Gatlinburg and later onto Wears Valley.

As you continue uphill, you can hear the sounds of Ober Gatlinburg 4-5 miles into the hike. The trees begin to change into pine-oak stands as the underbrush begins to disappear. The path begins to widen at this point and becomes grassy underneath, which makes the climb easier on the feet. On the right side of the trail at this point is the Cove Mountain Wildlife Management Area. You'll also see 4-wheel drive roads in this area, once again highlighting what the park could have become. Once you reach the Laurel Falls Trail, you only have .1 miles left to the summit.

After climbing for 8.7 miles, you reach the summit of Cove Mountain. There is an old fire tower that is no longer in use and is closed to public access. There is also a shed that contains instruments for monitoring air quality in the park. This is a good area to have lunch or a snack before continuing your hike.

You can either return to your car by hiking down Cove Mountain or take the Laurel Falls Trail (4.0 miles) back to the Little River Road and find a ride back to Sugarlands to pick up your car.

An alternative route is to do a car shuttle, parking one car at Sugarlands Visitor Center and then parking at the Laurel Falls Trailhead and hiking up the Laurel Falls Trail and then down Cove Mountain. This adds 4 miles to the hike, but the 8.7 miles of Cove Mountain are all downhill.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers are abundant in the early spring. Crested Iris, Robin's Plantain, Bluets, and Birdfoot Violets are just some of the flowers you will encounter.

Contacts

Shared By:

David Hitchcock

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 7 votes

#2

in Sugarlands

#19308

Overall
  3.3 from 7 votes
5 Star
14%
4 Star
14%
3 Star
57%
2 Star
14%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#2

in Sugarlands

#391

in North Carolina

#19,308

Overall
87 Views Last Month
2,813 Since Sep 4, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Cataract Falls
Sep 4, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
trail intersection
Feb 13, 2020 near Gatlinburg, TN
Park boundary markers can be seen in several places along the trail.
Jan 22, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
The top portion of the trail is fairly wide and grassy, making for easy hiking as you climb toward the Cove Mountain Summit.
Jan 22, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Air quality monitoring station at the old Cove Mountain Fire Tower.
Jan 22, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Cove Mountain Trail intersection.  .1 miles to the Fire Tower at the top of Cove Mountain.
Jan 21, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN

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Check-Ins

Jun 22, 2020
Stephanie Distler
Aug 19, 2019
AJ M
Sugarland Visitor Center to Cataract Falls 0.3mi
Jul 9, 2019
Bryan Johnson
Approx 0.5 mile hike to Cataract Falls from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Jul 9, 2019
Rachel Myers
Mar 18, 2019
Angie F
0.7mi
Mar 1, 2019
Thomas Mcadorey
8.7mi
Dec 26, 2018
Matt Breeden
4mi
May 25, 2018
Holly Huston