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Great Smoky Mountains NP - 45 Mile Loop: Lakeshore Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail

nc

Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 44.8 miles


45 mile loop from Tunnel Bypass outside Bryson City, along Lakeshore Trail, cutting into mountains on Hazel Creek Trail, up through Cold Spring Gap Trail, and descend back through Bear Creek Trail.
  • Apr2009SmokiesHike.jpg
  • Tunnel3.jpg
  • Lakeshore Trail Fontana Lake.jpg
  • Campsite 98 Day 1.jpg
  • Lakeshore Trail Fontana Lake View7.jpg
  • Lakeshore Trail Fontana Lake View From W Welch Ridge.jpg
  • Campsite 86 Day 2.jpg
  • Hazel Creek Trail Ritter Sawmill Kiln Ruin BW.jpg
  • Hazel Creek Sycamore Tree.jpg
  • Cold Spring Crossing Larry2.jpg
  • Cold Spring Crossing Larry4.jpg
  • Cold Spring Gap Trail Mist.jpg
  • Campsite 75.jpg

Initial 10 miles not many views of lake, with primarily deciduous forest. A couple of old moonshine chimneys dot the trail. Saw wild turkey and several hawks first day. Spent first night at campsite 98 which was fairly close to lake with several good spots for tents. However was obviously well used by both boaters and horse riders with quite a bit of trash/manure.

Last half of Lakeshore Trail is absolutely gorgeous with some excellent views, mixed conifer/deciduous woods, and lots of streams. Steep climb over west end of Welch Ridge where we hiked through a thunderstorm and saw several deer. Spent second night in site 86 which has a lot of spots for tents and while probably well used was very clean and almost idyllic being nestled in a bend in the river.

Hazel Creek Trail is well travelled with some interesting old buildings and very sturdy bridges along the way. Very wide/gentle walk until Cold Spring Gap Trail. This trail is steep with river crossings SANS BRIDGES--Keens a must to cross. Saw no one on this stretch of trail and plant life/scenery is beautiful as you climb through the gap. Surrounded in mist at the top with some very eery shots taken. Descended through Bear Creek Valley where we saw some wild boar but other than that the trail was non-descript other than being very muddy. Spent night in site 75 pitching our tents in the only two level spots in the site--make sure you get here early so you can stake out the prime real estate!

Day 4 was just a 6 mile saunter back to the trailhead and, alas, civilization.

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