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Chestnut Branch Trail

Difficult
 3.4 (5)

A short, sometimes punchy, climb connecting to the Appalachian Trail.


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Map Key

2.1

Miles

3.4

KM

Point to Point

2,880' 878 m

High

1,634' 498 m

Low

1,246' 380 m

Up

0' 0 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

26%

Max Grade (15°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek

Description

The Chestnut Branch Trail begins along Big Creek Road a few yards past the Big Creek Ranger Station. The trail starts steeply, but quickly moderates to an easier grade when it enters a stand of old-field hemlocks and pines. The trail continues with little variation in grade, eventually working its way into stands of yellow poplar, American beech, and a variety of oaks while passing the occasional rock wall and chestnut fence post that mark places of former human inhabitation.

A half-mile above Big Cove Road, the forest cover gives way to a clearing with discarded remnants from a mission school and grist mill that used to occupy the space. Above the clearing, the drainage narrows noticeably where the trail crosses a feeder stream and enters a closed oak association.

The trail soon reaches another clearing before switching away from Chestnut Branch and onto a steeper grade. At this juncture, the trail follows a newer roadbed that ascends the adjacent ridge.

When it turns to leave the old timber trace, the trail proceeds 180 yards to a switchback, then 200 yards to a second switchback. It then clears a ridge and levels out on a moderately easy grade. Four stream crossings intervene before the trail enters a thin copse of second-growth poplars now occupying what was once a mountain settlement.

The old-field poplars mark the onset of a steep half-mile approach to a minor swag on the main Smoky divide where the Chestnut Branch Trail terminates into the AT: Smoky Mountain Hiking Club (TN/NC) portion of the Appalachian Trail.

This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here.

Contacts

Shared By:

Ken Wise

Trail Ratings

  3.4 from 5 votes

#6

in Big Creek

#18836

Overall
  3.4 from 5 votes
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Trail Rankings

#6

in Big Creek

#716

in North Carolina

#18,836

Overall
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1,520 Since Aug 2, 2016
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Photos

Stream feeding Big Creek.
Aug 2, 2016 near Cove Creek, NC
Climbing up to the AT. About halfway there on Chestnut Branch Trail.
Feb 18, 2018 near Cove Creek, NC

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Check-Ins

Apr 28, 2018
Dana Bolden
I hiked Chestnut Branch Trail downhill from the AT junction. It is a nice, but steep, trail along the stream.
Feb 17, 2018
buddy beavers
anniversary weekend nice sunny day
Dec 8, 2017
Brian Carpenter
Even more challenging with ankle deep snow. Nice climb though. 4.2mi — 2h 30m
Aug 6, 2017
Yangki Jin
Apr 1, 2017
Jacob Dein
Nice trail that starts in a grove with some huge hemlocks 2.1mi — 0h 45m
Apr 1, 2017
Josh Hawley
Aug 20, 2016
Ian Kinney
Jul 17, 2014
Tommy Scalf
Nice trail to take to Mt. Cammerer.