Deep Creek to Clingmans Dome
ElevationAscent: 9,414' 2,869 m
Descent: -9,410' -2,868 m
High: 6,278' 1,914 m
Low: 1,842' 561 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 35% (19°)
Current trail conditions
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“A challenging four-day backpacking adventure along roaring streams and over scenic mountain peaks.”— Ben Cruzan
Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
Start out by taking the Deep Creek Trail to Pole Road Creek Trail to Noland Divide Trail to Forney Creek Trail to Springhouse Branch Trail to Noland Creek Trail - North to Noland Divide Trail back to Deep Creek.
* You could forego Forney Creek Trail and continue down Forney Ridge Trail to Springhouse Branch Trail and end your day at Campsite 64. But that's a long journey and Forney Creek Trail provides more campsites in case you're losing daylight.
* You should get LTE cellphone signal at the intersection of Springhouse Branch Trail and Forney Ridge Trail.
* You could make camp at any of 64, 63, 62, or 61. The nicest being 64, but that makes for a long final day.
* You should also get a good LTE cellphone signal from Lonesome Pine Overlook.
Begin your journey at Deep Creek Campground near Bryson City, NC. and check out Juney Whank Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Indian Creek Falls. You can even go tubing down Deep Creek. Take the Deep Creek Trail to Campsite 55 (58, 57, or 56 also work).
The steep ascent to Clingmans Dome begins at Pole Road Creek Trail. There are a few bridge-less stream crossings to start, so have your water shoes handy. Break for a snack at the Noland Divide/ Noland Creek intersection then transition to the Noland Divide Trail to Clingmans Dome Road.
The trail and road provide a very steady ascent to the highest point in the Smokeys so you'll likely need a few rest stops. Try to make it to the top by lunch to take in the views (provided it's a clear day) while you eat, rest, and refuel. The rest of the day is all downhill, but by no means easy. Descend down Forney Creek Trail and you may choose to take a detour on Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald*. The descent down Forney Creek is steep and rocky and hard on the feet with numerous creek crossings.
Campsite 68 provides your first chance to stop and make camp and is a cool spot next to Rock Slab Falls. Continue down the trail and you'll almost certainly need your water shoes at least once just before reaching Campsite 69, your likely final destination for the day. If you can keep a fast pace you may reach Campsite 70 or 71.
Following campsite 69 immediately are 3 - 4 more water crossings, so start your day in your water shoes. Campsite 71 is an old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) campground with a large fireplace and chimney still intact. 71 is also the intersection for Springhouse Branch Trail. Springhouse Branch Trail is a steep 2,000-foot climb with multiple switchbacks. Then there's a steep descent after the intersection with the Forney Ridge Trail*.
Break for lunch at Campsite 64 which provides convenient picnic tables and a water source if you're out following the grueling Springhouse Branch Trail. Once rested and recharged, continue on Noland Creek Trail. Noland Creek Trail - North begins as a wide horse trail. There's an immediate bridged stream crossing and just after the stream is the remains of an old homestead and stairs leading to Upper Noland (Branton) Cemetery.
Noland Creek Trail, although mostly uphill, is a relatively leisurely hike and has the feel of an enchanted forest at times. There's also a few more ruins and cemeteries if you know where to look. You'll pass campsites 63 and 62 on your way to your final stop at 61*.
Your last day begins with a short but steep trek up to the Noland Divide Trail intersection which we crossed on Day 2. This direction on the Noland Divide Trail is mostly downhill but, after a short descent to start, there's a 1.5-mile climb before really starting downhill the rest of the way. 4.5 miles from the intersection, Lonesome Pine Overlook is your reward for your travels. There's a small path on your right to the spectacular views and beautiful wildflowers. A perfect spot* to break for a snack or lunch.
Continue down the trail and soon you'll be back at the Deep Creek Trailhead. If you missed or skipped any waterfalls on Day 1, you can check them out now or take a refreshing dip in the creek and then change into some comfortable dry, clean clothes at the facilities and head into Bryson City for lunch or dinner.
Remains of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) campgrounds.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park