“A nice wildflower hike in a remote region of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
— David Hitchcock
Closed if Newfound Gap Road (US HWY 441 between Gatlinburg TN - Cherokee NC) or Smokemont Campground is closed due to snow and ice. Information regarding road conditions in the Great Smoky Mountains can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
A backcountry permit is required to stay in campsites and shelters. Camping is restricted to established campsites or shelters throughout the park.
The Hughes Ridge trailhead requires a bit of hiking to reach. Park in the Smokemont Campground and hike along the Bradley Fork Trail
for 1.1 miles, and then follow the Chasten Creek Trail for another 4 miles until you reach the Hughes Ridge Trail junction. This is the shortest route to the trailhead. Another option if Balsam Mountain Road is open, hike 1.8 miles along Hyatt Ridge Trail
and then another 3.6 miles along Enloe Creek Trail
until you reach the trailhead. The final option is to hike 10.5 miles along the Appalachian Trail (AT) from Newfound Gap to Peck's Corner and the trailhead, allowing you to hike Hughes Ridge Trail in reverse.
Thanks to its more remote location in the backcountry, the Hughes Ridge Trail offers a wildflower hike without the crowds found in other areas of the park. While you may encounter day hikers on the way to the trail, once you turn onto Hughes Ridge Trail, you'll probably only encounter a couple of backpackers who spent the night at Campsite #47 or #48 on Chasten Creek Trail or Peck's Corner Shelter on the AT. If you want spend the night, make sure that you get a permit to stay at the shelter or one of the campsites.
The trail climbs from its junction with the Chasteen Creek Trail
and Enloe Creek Trail
to the Appalachian Trail at Pecks Corner. The trail is narrow as it hugs the ridge line, but is well covered by trees making for pleasant hiking. This area is great for wildflower viewing in the spring and early summer. The trail rises and falls until it reaches the junction with the Bradley Fork Trail
at 2.5 miles. If you take a left, the trail will descend back to Smokemont and your car. Continuing straight ahead, the trail widens as it follows an old Jeep track that ran up the trail to within .5 miles of the AT. The trail becomes rougher due to ruts and loose rocks in this area, caused by years of use and erosion. From here, the trail stays above 5,000 feet as it climbs toward the Peck's Corner Shelter.
At roughly 4 miles, there is a maintenance shed once used for horse patrols that sits off to the righthand side. The trail dips slightly and the path to the Peck's Corner shelter is off on the right. The Hughes Ridge Trail climbs for another .4 miles until it reaches its junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT). From here, you can go to the left and make your way back to Newfound Gap (10.5 miles) or turn right and head toward Tricorner Knob (5.3 miles) and the Cosby area of the park.
Flora & Fauna
Flowers - flame azaleas, mountain laurel, fire pink, prostrate bluets, trillium mayflowers, and blue bead lilies.
Trees - Rhododendron, red spruce, beeches, yellow birches, fraser magnolias, maples,
Deer, bear, and wild hogs (at least evidence of them) have been seen in the area.