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green Schoolhouse Gap Trail


2.1 mile 3.4 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 496' 151 m
Descent: -4' -1 m
High: 2,082' 635 m
Low: 1,586' 483 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by David Hitchcock

A wildflower and birding route along Spence Branch to Schoolhouse Gap.

David Hitchcock

Features Birding · River/Creek · Wildflowers

Family Friendly The trail is wide, relatively clear of rocks and roots, and follows a small creek for part of the trail. It only climbs 500 feet over 2 miles, so there isn't a lot of elevation gain.

Closed when the Laurel Creek Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Cades Cove. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.


Take the Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove from the Townsend "Y". Follow the road for 3.5 miles and park at Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead on the right.

As the trail leaves the parking area, it climbs slightly along Spence Branch until it reaches Dorsey Gap.This is an old road that was supposed to connect Schoolhouse Gap to Bote Mountain Trail and ultimately Spence Field. Another road was supposed to have been built up the North Carolina side, but it was never completed and the road was abandoned. The trail is wide, and well maintained for easy travel. Right before the gap, there is a marshy area on the right of the trail good for birding or wildflower viewing. After you pass the gap, a narrow trail leads off to an area known as Whiteoak Sink. Caves in the Whiteoak Sink area provide homes for bats, although most caves are closed due to the threat of White Nose Syndrome.

As the trail continues to climb slightly to Schoolhouse Gap, you meet the Chestnut Top Trail at 2.0 miles, a trail that leads down to the Townsend Y. The trail continues for another .2 miles until it reaches Schoolhouse Gap and the park boundary. While there is no record of a school being at the gap, the name may refer to the fact that students walked through the gap in order to go to school in Townsend.

Private homes you see here are outside the park boundary and give the visitor an idea of what the area would be like if the woods weren't protected by the park service. You can now return to your car via the path you came.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers and birds can be seen along the trail, especially in areas around Spence Branch.

Bats inhabit the caves at Whiteoak Sink, but the caves are closed due to the threat from White Nose Syndrome. Wild hogs have been seen in this area as well.


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Jun 11, 2019
Thomas Mcadorey
white oak sinks 2.1mi — 12h 00m
May 17, 2019
John Ball
Easy trail not much elevation
Apr 18, 2019
Jeremy Mason
Came in from Chestnut Top, went to Schoolhouse Gap then back down to Laurel Creek Rd. Trail in great shape. 2.5mi
Apr 4, 2019
Alice Fennell
Took school house gap to turkey pen gap junction then returned to parking area 2.2mi
Feb 27, 2019
Mark Weiss
Schoolhouse gap to Whiteoak Sink Rainbow Falls Cave 5.5mi
Jan 5, 2019
Kenny Martin
Jan 1, 2019
Chihuahua Herder
Dec 15, 2018
Kevin O'Toole

Trail Ratings

  2.8 from 4 votes


in Tremont


  2.8 from 4 votes
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in Tremont


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