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An enduring climb along a knife-edge ridge complete with boundless wildflowers and stunning views.


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Map Key

12.1

Miles

19.5

KM

Point to Point

5,957' 1,816 m

High

2,305' 702 m

Low

4,174' 1,272 m

Up

522' 159 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

28%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · Spring · Views · Wildflowers

Description

There is nothing subtle about the beginning of the Sugarland Mountain Trail. When the trail leaves Little River Road, it turns abruptly left and begins switching sharply in and out of deep ravines as it climbs steeply out of Fighting Creek Gap. The first mile, though an arduous climb, is not without its attractions. In springtime, the adjacent slopes are festooned with numerous wildflowers. Where there are openings in the forest cover, Balsam Point and Mount Le Conte can be seen presiding in the intermediate distance while below is the long graceful sweep of the Fighting Creek watershed.

Over the course of the first three miles, the trail has several steep ups and downs. The first significant descent occurs one mile above Fighting Creek Gap where the trail enters a long, even drop into Mids Gap.

From Mids Gap, the trail climbs steadily for approximately 1.5 miles before leveling and easing into a long drop to Huskey Gap. In Huskey Gap, the Sugarland Mountain Trail intersects the Huskey Gap Trail before climbing out on singletrack that, after a mile, reaches a gently sloped rock-strewn amphitheater shaded by tall cove hardwoods.

From here, the trail cycles between areas of dry and moist woodlands before descending a long approach to a nameless minor gap that harbors the upper terminus of the Rough Creek Trail.

From the junction, the Sugarland Mountain Trail climbs to the knife-edged spine of Sugarland Mountain, remaining on the spine for only a short distance before deviating around a high knob, passing through it into a more open exposure bearing a northern hardwood mix. The distance along the knife-edge is not far, perhaps a quarter-mile, before the grade stiffens noticeably, and the Sugarland Mountain Trail enters the boreal zone.

At this point, the trail proceeds through birches into a steady climb angling across a slope of wildflowers. Here, the grasses that softened much of the earlier trail give way to a rockier course. The higher the trail climbs, the more it degenerates into a rough, rutted track. In an opening at the left of the trail, the headwaters of Moccasin Branch form up from a weak spring with a white vinyl pipe. The Moccasin Branch Spring is the closest source for the nearby Mount Collins Shelter.

Beyond the shelter, the Sugarland Mountain Trail winds on a level course through balsam woods to terminate into the Appalachian Trail just below the summit of Mount Collins.

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

Carolina silverbells, trilliums, yellow trillium, sweet white violets, smooth yellow violets, may-apples, birdfoot violets, large-flowered bellworts, great chickweeds, prostrate bluets, spring beauties, sweet white violets, Turk’s-cap lilies, rosy twisted stalks, and wood-betonies are some of the abundant species of wildflowers present along the trail.

In the way of trees, keep your eyes peeled for eastern hemlock, red maple, white basswood, yellow buckeye, northern red oak, birch, red spruce, Fraser fir, and fire cherry.

Contacts

Shared By:

Ken Wise

Trail Ratings

  3.8 from 8 votes

#7

in Elkmont

#12176

Overall
  3.8 from 8 votes
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Trail Rankings

#7

in Elkmont

#219

in North Carolina

#12,176

Overall
16 Views Last Month
1,613 Since Aug 3, 2016
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Photos

July 1996, hiking the AT with MLK
Apr 2, 2018 near Gatlinburg, TN
View along the Sugarland Mtn trail ridge near Chimney Tops.
Nov 16, 2021 near Gatlinburg, TN
Scenic vista at about the 4.8 mile mark looking west.  Open flat rock makes a great stop for a snack.
Dec 1, 2021 near Gatlinburg, TN
Looking towards the Sugarlands near Gatlinburg.
Nov 16, 2021 near Gatlinburg, TN
Rolling green hills usher in the summer season.
Aug 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN

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Current Trail Conditions

Bad / Closed 27 days ago
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Check-Ins

May 29, 2023
Sharon Leu
Feb 12, 2023
Andrew Weber
Apr 15, 2022
Brad Grant
Gorgeous hike but very demanding trail due to the blowdowns above Rough Creek and the elevation change to Huskey Gap. Hiked it down from Fork Ridge. 11.1mi — 5h 30m
Dec 1, 2021
x kegroller
scenic view point looking west 4.8mi — 10h 54m
Nov 2, 2021
x kegroller
did the upper section from the AT down to Rough Creek and back 9.6mi — 5h 00m
Nov 29, 2020
Cindy Peterson
5mi — 2h 50m
Mar 22, 2019
Justin Harmon
Mar 2, 2019
Andreas Bastias
Incredible lichens and mosses. Ramps. Massive boulders and small brooks. 14.7mi — 7h 00m
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