Features: River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
The trailhead is 4.4 miles from Newfound Gap on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Park at Newfound Gap and start your journey, passing Icewater Springs and Charlies Bunion
on your way to the trailhead. Due to its location, chances are you might be the only one on the trail.
The trail climbs for about half a mile through the forest until it starts to level off. As the trail levels off, you enter a grassy area that provides great views and blueberries, blackberries, and huckleberries in August. The trees in this area are relatively young, as this area was logged by the lumber companies. A fire swept through this area destroying much of the habitat, and creating areas like Charlies Bunion
. You'll notice that as the trail goes through the meadow, it sinks below the area around it because of horse use and erosion. The way can be rocky in this section, so watch your step.
Now the trail starts it descent as it makes its way toward Smokemont and the junction with Cabin Flats Trail
. At mile 1.3, you reach the junction of the Grassy Branch Trail
. From here, you can make your way down to the Kephart Shelter (2.5 miles away) by turning right, or continue straight ahead toward Smokemont (7.1 miles away). Norway spruce trees, planted by the Champion Lumber Company, may be seen in this area, at least until the national park can remove this exotic species.
The trail follows Richland Mountain ridge, getting rocky and muddy as you descend. This cooler, wetter environment makes for good wildflower viewing in the spring and summer. The trail crosses Bradley Fork via a rock hop, and you enter a ravine that escaped logging and fire due to its moist, sheltered environment. This section is just one example of a few of the old growth forests that exist in the park.
The trail continues to be rocky as it descends along the creeks in the area. Rock hops are usually easy unless it's been raining or there is a lot of snow melt. You continue descending until you come to a log bridge that crosses the Tennessee Branch of Bradley Fork. You descend through a ravine, crossing the creek several times via logs or rock hops. Finally, you get to a point where the trail narrows and creek stays on your right hand side. At mile 4.2, you reach the Dry Sluice Gap Trail sign and the end of this trail.
You have several options. You can go to your left for .6 miles to spend the night at Campsite #49. Or, if you go to the right, you can make your way 4.2 miles to the Smokemont Campground.
Due to areas of this trail not being logged by the lumber companies, it's a good opportunity to see some old growth forest and a variety of trees that are indigenous to the Smokies. Flowers are plentiful in some areas of the route where there is plenty of shade and water for them to thrive.