Features: River/Creek — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 4.9 miles west along the Little River Road to the turnoff for the Elkmont Campground. Turn left into Elkmont, and go 1.4 miles to the campground, turning left and driving another 0.6 miles. At this point, you can take a right and go another 0.5 miles to a parking area.
The turnoff for the Elkmont Campground will be 12.6 miles away from the Townsend "Y" on the Little River Road.
The trail climbs for roughly 0.4 miles past these vacation homes as it follows an old railroad bed. At mile 0.3, the Cucumber Gap Trail
breaks off to the left and then at mile 0.4, the Meigs Mountain Trail
goes off to the right. It's a wide, gravel trail (it had to support the trains hauling lumber out of the valley) as it approaches Jakes Creek as it works its way uphill. The gravel ends around 1.2 miles, as the trail crosses a series of creeks via log footbridges, and this area of the trail can be dangerous after heavy rain. This is typical of creek valleys in the Smokies, so make sure you check the weather before heading out. The trail narrows at this point as it climbs a switchback into a forest dominated by Fraser magnolias. Rocks and tree roots are common obstacles on the trail from this point on.
Around mile 2.6, you have gained about 1,000 feet of elevation and arrived at Campsite #27, which is a popular campsite with several sites and fire rings. The trail continues to climb as the creek starts to disappear. Gently climbing for the last 0.7 miles, the trail reaches Jakes Gap at an elevation of 4,055 feet. The trail has climbed over 1,500 feet since leaving Elkmont.
At this point, there are several options. The Panther Creek Trail
drops down to the Middle Prong Trail
and the Tremont area while the Miry Ridge Trail
goes off to the left and continues to climb to the Appalachian Trail. The other option, enjoy a downhill hike back to your car.
This area was logged by the Little River Lumber Company in the 1900s, so there aren't a great number of old growth trees in this area. After the lumber company was finished logging the area, the land was sold to settlers and vacationers, whose homes can still be seen, even though they are dilapidated now. If you've read about the ghost town in the Great Smoky Mountains, this is the area described in those tales.
Fraser magnolias, tuliptrees, maples, and black locust trees are just some of the young trees you can see in this area. Due to selective logging in the 1800s and heavy logging in the 1900s before the area was a park, there aren't many old growth trees in this area of the park.
Wildflowers can be seen along various portions of the trail in the spring.
Deer, bear, wild turkeys, and other animals have been seen throughout the area.