Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Porters Creek Trail

Find wildflower nirvana on this 7.4-mile hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that runs past vibrant blooms, visits an historic farm site, and passes a waterfall.
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Find wildflower nirvana on this 7.4-mile hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that runs past vibrant blooms, visits an historic farm site, and passes a waterfall.

This 7.4-mile out-and-back is a great place to look for some of the 30 salamander species that live in the park. (Peek in small pools to find them.) From the Brushy Mountain Trail, hike 1.6 miles through yellow trillium to a wooden footbridge, looking to your left for mayapple with leaves like green umbrellas. Wild geranium carpet the hardwood slopes, and the tiny blue petals of wild stonecrop cover mossy boulders.

At mile 1, turn right at a 3-way junction for a quick side trip to an historic farm site at Porters Flat. Return to this intersection and turn right to continue up Porters Creek. Roughly 2 miles later, you'll find wildflower nirvana in a blanket of white trillium. At mile 3.7, turn around at backcountry campsite 31, a spacious plot with a fire ring and stream, and retrace your route to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Marcus Woolf

PLAN IT

MAP
>> Trails llustrated Clingmans Dome/Cataloochee/Great Smoky Mountains NP ($10, natgeomaps.com)
>> View a map of the park at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.
>> Order the USGS topo quads listed above at store.usgs.gov.
>> Order a custom map of this route at MyTopo.com.

GUIDEBOOK: Hiking Trails of the Smokies ($21, smokiesstore.org) details all 150 maintained trails within the park.

PERMITS: Required when camping at a backcountry campsite or shelter (free, reserve up to one month before your trip and pick up in person). Backcountry reservation office: (865) 436-1231, nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm

WHEN TO GO: April and May are best for wildflower blooms, while fall, with its brilliantly colored leaves, is drier.

CONDITIONS: Check weather at Gatlinburg, TN (37738) Weather

SEASON: The park is open year-round, and our trail scouts have hiked this route in every season. Check for road, trail, and camping closures at nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm. Curious about fall foliage? Check nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm.

PARK INFO: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (865) 436-1200; nps.gov/grsm

SMOKIES TRIP PLANNER: nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/trip-planner.htm

OTHER RESOURCES

GAS
Shell Super Mart
376 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-2161

Texaco
799 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-4539

GEAR
Nantahala Outdoor Center
13077 Highway 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
(888) 905-7238
noc.com

Blackrock Outdoor Co.
570 West Main St.
Sylva, NC
(828) 631-4453

Mast General Store
63 N. Main St.
Waynesville, NC 28786
(828) 452-2101
mastgeneralstore.com

Smoky Mountain Outfitters
469 Brookside Village Way
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 430-2267

GROCERIES
Food City
1219 East Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-3116

Bearland General Store
305 Historic Nature Trail
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 436-4565

Bradley's Grocery‎
1699 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-9132

RESTAURANTS
Smoky Mountain Brewery
1004 Parkway # 501
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
coppercellar.com/Restaurant-SmokyMountainBrewery.html

Best Italian Cafe & Pizzeria
968 Parkway # 9
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-4090 ‎
bestitalian.com

Granny's Kitchen
1098 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-5010

Peter's Pancakes and Waffles
1384 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC
(828) 497-5116

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 11.9

Waypoints

WPT001

Location: 35.696833, -83.388017

From the trailhead, hike south on Porters Creek Trail. Potato Ridge rises on the right-hand (north) side of the trail.

WPT002

Location: 35.690067, -83.395994

The trail swing south. Cross Long Branch and continue south along Porters Creek.

WPT003

Location: 35.687666, -83.398091

Bear right to visit a historic farm site and the Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Cabin. See this: For a two-week period in mid-June, male Photinus carolinus fireflies (one of the park’s 14 firefly species) synchronize their flashes for mating season. Find a clearing around Porters Flat to observe clouds of fireflies blinking in unison. Watch closely: The short bursts of synchronous lights form distinct patterns, which vary among the species. Target your arrival to Porters Flat for 9 p.m.

WPT004

Location: 35.687427, -83.399116

Check out the historic farm site. Next, backtrack to WPT 3, and turn right, following Porters Creek.

WPT005

Location: 35.680882, -83.397158

Cross the creek on a log bridge.

WPT006

Location: 35.676679, -83.397155

Pass a waterfall on the left side of the trail.

WPT007

Location: 35.669552, -83.396423

The route curves to the southeast and continues to climb along Porters Creek.

WPT008

Location: 35.659916, -83.379718

Turn around at campsite 31, a spacious plot tucked below Porters Mountain with a fire ring and stream (permit required). Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Whitewater Rapids

Location: 35.690084, -83.395758

Bridge

Location: 35.680882, -83.397077

Wildflowers

Location: 35.668767, -83.392818