Carolina Mountain Club

SB6K Smokies

SOUTH BEYOND 6000 in the GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL  PARK (Smokies)

Twelve of the forty peaks over 6000 in the region are located in the Smokies. For hiking convenience they may be divided into four sections: A. Southwest of Newfound Gap (2 peaks ) B. Just North of Newfound Gap (2 peaks) C. Vicinity of Tricorner Knob Shelter (6 peaks ) and D. Vicinity of Laurel Gap Shelter (2 peaks ). Hikers in the Smokies will find a number of useful guides to Park trails, such as Hiking Trails of the Smokies (Gatlinburg: Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, 1994).

A. Southwest of Newfound Gap (Clingmans Dome and Mt. Collins )

Clingmans Dome (6643 feet) is a popular site for visitors by automobile and is reached by the 7-mile Clingmans Dome Road, which connects Newfound Gap on US-441 (between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN) to the Clingmans Dome Parking Area. Visitors may then ascend a paved walkway to the summit and tower of Clingmans Dome. (This is not an approved route for the South Beyond 6000 Program).

Mt. Collins (6188 feet) is located on the Appalachian Trail about 4.7 miles from Newfound Gap and 3.0 miles from Clingmans Dome.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

  • Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome: The most common route is the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome, which is 7.7 miles. It includes both peaks, and rises from 5000 feet to 6643 feet. Experienced hikers may want to return by the same route, totaling between 15 and 16 miles.
  • Fork Ridge Trailhead to Clingmans Dome and Return: The Fork Ridge Trail intersects the Clingmans Dome Road from the NC side 4.2 miles from Newfound Gap and 3.5 miles from Clingmans Dome. By crossing the road to the TN side the hiker finds a connector to the Appalachian Trail, which then leads over Mt. Collins to Clingmans Dome. An acceptable hike of at least 5 miles requires a return to the trailhead.
  • Road Prong Trailhead to Clingmans Dome and Return: On the TN side the Road Prong Trail intersects the Clingmans Dome Road 1.7 miles south of Newfound Gap. From that point one may access the Appalachian Trail and hike 6 miles over Mt. Collins to Clingmans Dome, with an alternative of returning.

Clingmans  Dome, 6643
Hike Descriptions:  Clingmans Dome

Mt.  Collins, 6188
Hike Descriptions:  Mt. Collins

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B. Nearby North of Newfound Gap ( Mt. Le Conte and Mt. Kephart )

Mt. Le Conte (6593 feet) is linked by several trails to Newfound Gap, US 441, and the Cherokee Orchard area near Gatlinburg, TN. Hikers frequently do a loop by ascending one of the trails and descending by another.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

  • Newfound Gap to Mt. Le Conte via the Boulevard Trail: From Newfound Gap the Appalachian Trail proceeds northeast 2.7 miles, connecting with the Boulevard Trail that leads 5.3 miles to the Summit of Mt. Le Conte. (*Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard Trail #165)
  • Mt. Le Conte via Alum Cave Trail: This trail begins on US-441, 4.6 miles west of Newfound Gap and 8.6 miles east of the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg. It ascends 4.9 miles connecting with the Rainbow Falls Trail 0.1 miles from the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (* Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard Trail #165)
  • Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls Trail: From the Cherokee Orchard Parking Area near Gatlinburg this trail ascends 6.6 miles to the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (* Mt. Le Conte via Trillium Gap and Rainbow FallsTrails; Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls Trail #198 )
  • Bull Head Trail: This trail begins on the Old Sugarlands Trail, 0.4 miles from the Cherokee Orchard Parking Area. It ascends 5.9 miles, where it joins the Rainbow Falls Trail 0.6 mile from the Mt. Le Conte lodges. (* Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls and Bull Head Trails)
  • Trillium Gap Trail: From Grotto Falls Parking Area, located 2.0 miles along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from Cherokee Orchard, the Trillium Gap Trail rises 6.7 miles to the lodges at Mt. Le Conte. (*Mt. Le Conte via Trillium Gap Trail #50, #198)

Mt. Kephart.  The trail to Mt. Kephart (6217 feet) begins on the right side of the Boulevard Trail, a few minutes from where the latter leaves the Appalachian Trail, 2.7miles from Newfound Gap. The summit lies a short distance up this trail, which continues, onto the spectacular overlook called the Jump off.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

  • Newfound Gap to Mt. Kephart and Return: Mt. Kephart may be climbed by following the Appalachian Trail north from Newfound Gap 2.7 miles to the Boulevard Trail, then taking the trail to the summit and returning to Newfound Gap.
  • Mt. Le Conte via Boulevard and Alum Cave Trails: Hikers can bag two peaks over 6000 feet, Mt. Le Conte and Mt. Kephart, by taking the side trail off Boulevard Trail to climb Mt. Kephart on the way to Mt. Le Conte.
  • Charlies Bunion, Mt. Kephart Prong: This popular CMC hike, especially in May for spring flowers, follows the Appalachian Trail by the Boulevard and often includes an option to climb Mt. Kephart.

Mt. LeConte, 6593
Hike Descriptions:  Mt. Le Conte

Mt.  Kephart, 6217
Hike Descriptions:  Mt. Kephart

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C. Vicinity of Tricorner Knob Shelter (Mt. Sequoyah, Mt. Chapman, Mt. Yonaguska, Marks Knob, Mt. Guyot, and Old Black)

Tri-Corner Knob Shelter is located on the Appalachian Trail 15.7 miles northeast of Newfound Gap and 15.7 miles from Davenport Gap, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. It is used by nearly all Beyond South hikers as a base to climb the nearby peaks. Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling the Backcountry Reservation Office at 423-436-1231. Topographical maps are helpful and almost indispensable for climbing these peaks because most of them are not marked in any way and are reached by bushwhacks.

Mt. Sequoyah (6003 feet) is located on the Appalachian Trail 2.6 miles southwest of Tricorner Knob Shelter and 13.1 miles northeast of Newfound Gap. The summit is in a small cleared area on the west side of the AT.

The Appalachian Trail runs along the flank of Mt. Chapman (6417 feet) 1.4 miles from Tricorner Knob Shelter and 14.5 miles from Newfound Gap. When going south, the mountain is located just after a sharp angle to the left (going north, just before a sharp angle to the right). A short, but tough, bushwhack is necessary either up the side or back along the west crest from the angle. A faint man way goes up the west crest of the ridge to the summit. There are several rocky protuberances, but the summit is evident, and the climber will be rewarded with a stunning view toward Mt. Guyot.

Mt. Yonaguska (6120 feet) is about a half-mile south of Tricorner Knob Shelter located offtrail from the Balsam Mountain Trail. The hiker must bushwhack to the summit. This is usually done leaving the Balsam Mountain Trail from near the same place the hiker leaves the trail for Marks Knob.

Marks Knob (6169 feet) is accessed from the same gap as Mt. Yonaguska, 0.8 miles southeast from the Appalachian Trail on the Balsam Mountain Trail. The second peak on Marks Knob is the summit. To the right in the gap is Mt. Hardison, with Marks Knob on the other side. The hiker must go around Mt. Hardison on the heavily overgrown old Hyatt Ridge Trail. Once past Mt. Hardison the hiker will reach Marks Knob another half mile or so beyond, uphill and to the left of the OLD (decommissioned) Hyatt Ridge Trail, to be ascended by bushwhack.

Mt. Guyot (6621 feet) is the second highest peak in the Smokies and looms to the right alongside the Appalachian Trail, after a steady climb of about a mile northeast from the Shelter. The hiker should bushwhack directly up at a southeast bearing up the steep side from the southern of the two Guyot Springs crossed on the AT.

Old Black (6370 feet), is reached if continued northbound on the AT past Mt.Guyot for about a mile, then ascended via a short but obstacle-laden bushwhack.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

  • Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Tricorner Knob Shelter: On this route the hiker will pass Mt. Sequoyah and have the opportunity to bushwhack up Mt. Chapman. Once at Tricorner Knob Shelter the hiker can access the other peaks in the area ( #121)
  • Mt. Yonaguska via Snake Den Ridge: a common way of accessing this area is from the Cosby Campground, which is located 2 miles from Cosby, TN. The Snakeden Ridge Trail ascends 5.3 miles to the Appalachian Trail and then 3.7 miles to the Tricorner Knob Shelter. En route he may bushwhack up Old Black and Mt. Guyot. Once at Tricorner Knob Shelter the hiker can access the other peaks in the area. ( #122, #42)
  • Balsam Mountain Trail to Tricorner Knob Shelter: The Balsam Mountain Trail begins at Pin Oak Gap on the unpaved Balsam Mountain Road, which goes from Heintooga Ridge Road to Cherokee. The Trail runs 10.1 miles to the Appalachian Trail at the Tricorner Knob Shelter. (Note that Balsam Mountain Trail is also a major access to Laurel Gap Shelter, Big Cataloochee, and Luftee Knob) (#123, #250)
  • Mt. Guyot and Old Black (via Snakeden Ridge Trail): This rigorous CMC hike, which climbs both peaks, begins and ends at the Cosby Campground. (#109)

Mt. Sequoyah, 6003
Hike Descriptions:  Mt. Sequoyah

Mt. Chapman 6417
Hike Descriptions: Mt. Chapman

Mt. Yonaguska, 6120
Hike Descriptions: Mt. Yonaguska

Marks Knob, 6169
Hike Descriptions:  Marks Knob

Mt. Guyot, 6621
Hike Descriptions: Mt. Guyot

Old Black, 6370
Hike Descriptions: Old Black

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D. Vicinity of Laurel Gap Shelter (Big Cataloochee and Luftee Knob)

The Laurel Gap Shelter (reservations required) is located on the Balsam Mountain Trail, 3.8 miles from Balsam Mountain Road and 6.3 miles from the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. Hikers often overnight here to climb the nearby peaks and also those peaks near the Tricorner Knob Shelter.

Big Cataloochee (6155 feet) lies near the junction of the Balsam Mountain Trail and the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail. It can be reached by bushwhacking from the junction across the intervening Balsam Corners Mountain to Big Cataloochee, or better going down Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, where just beyond a rocky stream bed that crosses the trail, a very steep ridge goes up to the left. Bushwhacking up this ridge will lead to the summit of Big Cataloochee.

The Balsam Mountain Trail passes along the flank of Luftee Knob (6234 feet) about 2.8 miles from the junction with Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail and about 3.2 miles from the junction with the Appalachian Trail. Although Luftee Knob is obvious, hikers often confuse it with adjacent mountains and climb the wrong one. Luftee is a very tough and steep bushwhack. The best way to ascend is from the south, bushwhacking up to the crest of the ridge and following a man way to the summit.

Most Commonly Used/Accepted Routes:

  • Balsam Mountain Trail to Big Cataloochee and Luftee Knob, and return: The Balsam Mountain Trail begins at Pin Oak Gap on the unpaved Balsam Mountain Road, which goes from Heintooga Ridge Road to Cherokee. At 4.1 miles it meets the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, where the hiker may access Big Cataloochee. About 2.8 miles further on, he may climb Luftee Knob. Returning to the trailhead is a strenuous 16 miles, but one may spend the night at the Laurel Gap Shelter for a shorter two-day hike or continue on to the Tricorner Knob Shelter to climb the peaks near there.
  • Big Cataloochee via Pretty Hollow Gap and Mt. Sterling Ridge Trails and return: A common access to this area is from the Cataloochee Valley. From the Parking Area at the end of the road, through the Valley, one may ascend by the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail 5.3 miles and then the Mt. Sterling Trail about 3.7 miles to access Big Cataloochee. To return is a strenuous 18 or 19 mile round trip, but one may spend the night at the Laurel Gap Shelter for a shorter two-day hike or continue on to the Tricorner Knob Shelter to climb the peaks near there.

Luftee Knob, 6234
Hike Descriptions:  Luftee Knob

Big Catalooche, 6155
Hike Descriptions:  Big Cataloochee


SMOKIES AREA  MAPS

SB6K Smokies East Area Topo Map

SB6K Smokies East Area Map

SB6K Smokies West Area Topo Map

SB6K Smokies West Area Map