“A quick descent to Fontana Lake and the Lower Noland Creek Backcountry Camp (#66).”
— Ken Wise
Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming
This easy trail to the lake provides families with the perfect opportunity to get their kids out in the wilderness.
The lower end of the Noland Creek Trail cannot be accessed directly except by boat on Fontana Lake. One mile upstream where Lakeview Drive (more famously known as the Road to Nowhere) crosses on a viaduct, an access path leads 190 yards from the road down to the trail.
At the bottom of the access path, the Noland Creek Trail proceeds south on an easy course following a wide level jeep track. Down-trail on the left, a paved road intersects, leading down from the upper end of the parking area on Lakeview Drive. Beyond the paved road, the trail crosses four wooden bridges over Noland Creek.
Beyond the last bridge, the trail continues meandering on a wide grassy track for about a quarter-mile before the ever-steepening terrain presses the course into closer proximity with the stream. Here, the roadbed narrows to a single-file track that is congested with accumulations of large pieces of driftwood deposited when the high water of Fontana Lake embayment recedes. When it breaks out into the openness of the embayment, the trail disappears, its track effaced by the wash of lake water.
Just upstream from the point where Noland Creek completes a ninety-degree bend and opens into Fontana Lake, a small gradient of sun-baked shoreline harbors the Lower Noland Creek Backcountry Campsite (#66). Except for a few small plots in the weedy grass along one corner of the campsite, there are no nice tent spots on the slope. Most of the area is too soft and sandy to be suitable for camping, and the higher ground is too wooded and rough. The camp is served by a food-storage cable suspended in the woods behind the upper downstream corner of the campsite.
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