“A challenging four-day backpacking adventure along roaring streams and over scenic mountain peaks.”
— Ben Cruzan
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
Need to Know
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
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.
Flora & Fauna
Wildflowers, Old growth forest, Black Bears, Birds, Fishing.
History & Background
Numerous remains of Pre-National Park homesteads and old cemeteries.
Remains of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) campgrounds.