|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
A mere footnote in the geologic record, Charlies Bunion may lack the fame other Smoky Mountain hikes. But stand on this weatherworn promontory and peer past the dizzying 1,000-foot dropoffs to a quintessential Smokies skyline, and there's no doubt: This is a destination worth getting up early for. In fact, a predawn alarm isn't a bad idea, since you'll be bagging the standout summit in the most visited U.S. national park. There's a reason the softshell-clad masses trek through an evergreen tunnel along the spine of the Appalachians: A jaw-dropping panorama stretches from Mt. LeConte eastward to the jagged peaks of the Sawteeth Range. A 1925 wildfire that incinerated the slopes of this 5,565-foot knob is responsible for the exceptional view--and the peculiar name. Noted outdoorsman Horace Kephart named the bulbous peak in 1929 after observing its resemblance to his hiking companion's inflamed big toe.
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