The trailhead is located on the Rich Mountain Road, 2.2 miles from the Cades Cove Loop Road. It's closed in the winter, so this is a Spring- Fall trail for most people. The trail is accessible via the Crooked Arm Ridge Trail
or the Rich Mountain Loop Trail
from Cades Cove in the winter, so it can be a winter outing if you want to continue a little farther.
The trail begins climbing up the flank of the mountain as it leaves Rich Mountain Road. The trail is wide in this portion because it was used by the power company to service power lines going into Cades Cove. At mile .6, the trail goes through Indian Grave Gap and you pass an old road that may have been the old Rich Mountain Road that the settlers used.
From there, the trail climbs more steeply (1000 feet in a mile) as the pine forest transforms into a hardwood forest with oaks, maples, silverbells, and other trees. Near the top of Tater Ridge at mile 1.1, the trail intersects with the Rich Mountain Loop Trail
. There's a great view of Cades Cove near here, so take the extra time to appreciate the scenery.
The trail turns left and continues to climb through an area known for its wildflowers toward the Rich Mountain Trail
at mile 1.9. Campsite #5 is located about 100 yards down the trail on the left. The trail goes straight for another .3 miles before arriving at Cerulean Knob, where a small spur trail leads to the highest point on Rich Mountain. In the small opening, cement blocks that were once the foundation of the old Rich Mountain Fire Tower remain. The main trail continues east rolling up and down for another 1.5 miles with wildflowers lining the trail. Views of Dry Valley and Townsend, both of which lie outside the park, are offered on the left hand side while obstructed views of Cades Cove are off on the right. The trail follows the park boundary at this point until it reaches mile 3.0, where the trail drops deeper into the park. At mile 3.7, the trail arrives at a three trail junction.
The Crooked Arm Ridge Trail
continues straight before it descends into Cades Cove. You can take this trail to meet up with the Rich Mountain Loop Trail
to make your way back to your car. To the left is Scott Mountain Trail
, which continues to skirt the park boundary all the way to Schoolhouse Gap.
Flame azaleas, mushrooms, galax, rhododendron, and other wildflowers can be found throughout the trail.
Deer, bear, and other mammals have been seen throughout the area. Wild hog traps can be seen along the trail, which speaks to the presence of the invasive species in the area.