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Fork Ridge Trail

Difficult
 3.0 (3)

A moderate descent through vibrant wildflowers and established eastern hardwoods to Deep Creek.


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Map Key

5.1

Miles

8.3

KM

Point to Point

5,888' 1,795 m

High

3,065' 934 m

Low

0' 0 m

Up

2,822' 860 m

Down

10%

Avg Grade (6°)

20%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

Description

The Fork Ridge Trail begins from a small parking area on Clingmans Dome Road three-and-a-half miles above Newfound Gap.

When it leaves Clingmans Dome Road, the Fork Ridge Trail settles into a steady descent, quickly reaching a spring that spills out onto the path before entering a boreal forest. Formations of upthrust rock comprise much of the immediate terrain, making the trail itself rough and rocky in places.

One mile below the road, the trail turns onto an east-facing slope affording some fine views across the Deep Creek watershed and into a veritable sea of mountains ranging deep into North Carolina. Here, the trail completes a series of switchbacks before regaining the spine of Fork Ridge. Along the ridge, the grade moderates nicely. Visible to the left is a short section of Newfound Gap Road running along the crest of the Thomas Divide. On the right is the upper end of the Noland Divide.

The trail remains on the spine of Fork Ridge for only a quarter-mile before rolling off to the right into a long steady descent that roughly parallels the ridgeline. Here, the rushing of Left Fork becomes clearly audible in the gorge below. As it continues descending, the trail circumnavigates a minor ridge point, circling to the left and quickly arriving at a narrow neck in Fork Ridge known as Deep Creek Gap.

In the day of the Smoky Mountain hunter, Deep Creek Gap was a major landmark, being the only convenient place of passage between the upper reaches of Deep Creek and Left Fork. Well-known camps were situated on both sides of the gap.

At Deep Creek Gap, the trail becomes exceedingly steep, dropping through a cove to Deep Creek. As it approaches the stream, the trail winds through a small patch of nettle-infested boggy ground before reaching a slight hummock at the edge of the stream.

From the hummock, the trail proceeds across Deep Creek in a difficult crossing and then immediately terminates into the Deep Creek Trail. Fifty yards downstream, the Deep Creek Trail enters the Poke Patch Backcountry Campsite (#53), one of the oldest camps in the Smoky backcountry.

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.

Flora & Fauna

Red spruce, Fraser fir, yellow birch, mountain ash, American beech, rhododendron, mountain laurel, flame azalea, chestnut oak, yellow poplar, white oak, spring beauty, white fringed phacelia, and trillium are all abundant along the trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Ken Wise

Trail Ratings

  3.0 from 3 votes

#21150

Overall
  3.0 from 3 votes
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Trail Rankings

#444

in North Carolina

#21,150

Overall
48 Views Last Month
1,458 Since Jul 25, 2016
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Photos

Just up from the Deep Creek crossing, the beauty of the trail contrasts the difficulty of the climb, which is as steep as it gets along the entirety of the trail along this section.
Apr 22, 2019 near Bryson…, NC
The wonders of an early Spring morning near the Deep Creek end of the Fork Ridge Trail
Apr 22, 2019 near Bryson…, NC
Check conditions! Creek crossing to camp 53. Pic looks innocent but that small jet through the middle was nothing to mess with in waist deep water. Spent the night next to the creek and had to hike back up to Cling Rd for a shuttle to Deep Creek ($140) :)
Jun 5, 2018 near Bryson…, NC

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Check-Ins

Jun 6, 2020
Karen Quilliams
May 6, 2019
Karen Quilliams
May 5, 2019
Karen Quilliams
Aug 13, 2018
Jonathan Morgan
First time hikers navigated down to deep creek in 3hr 30 minutes. Fallen trees have recently been cleared. No major issues for extremely novice hikers 5.2mi — 6h 30m
Jun 5, 2018
Dave Emery
At least 8 blow-downs to negotiate. Also, trail is extremely slick and muddy during rain. 5.1mi — 3h 00m
Jul 17, 2017
Chuck Roark
Strenous going down because trail is not level and half boulders and roots.Stumbled couple times, needed poles. Big dropoffs- take your time! 5mi — 2h 30m
Apr 27, 2017
Matt Sherwood
Jul 7, 2016
Jeremy Varo-Haub