Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Chimney Tops via Newfound Gap

Follow fern-lined trails past rushing waterfalls on this 10.5-mile out-and-back with a scramble up a rocky pinnacle in the central Smokies.

Rating

This memorable Smokies dayhike begins at Newfound Gap and runs west on the Appalachian Trail. The path straddles the TN/NC state line as it winds toward Indian Gap and the crest of the Mingus Lead ridge. Stop to take in ridgeline views to the north of Mt. LeConte framed by patchy balsam forest.

At mile 1.2, cross a fence built to keep feral hogs out, then descend the ridge, passing past trout lily and snake root. Less than half a mile later, turn right at the T-junction onto Road Prong Trail, which descends into the Road Prong Creek drainage. Watch your footing on slick rocks and logs.

At mile 3.9, bear left at the Y-junction and begin climbing a rocky trail, which follows a tangle of roots to the ridge spine. From here, begin a hand-over-hand scramble up bare rock. (You’ll gain nearly 1,100 feet of elevation in the final, 1.2 mile-stretch to the summit.)

At the top of the ridge, the trail swings north and traces a narrow ridge to the double-humped, 4,840-foot Chimney Tops. Gaze over precipitous Sugarland Mountain to Mt. LeConte and, on clear days, Clingmans Dome (6,643 ft., highest point on AT). Backtrack to the trailhead.

-Mapped by Collins Chew

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

To Trailhead

From Asheville, NC, take I-40 W to exit 27 to US 19 S to Cherokee. Turn right onto US 441 N; go 19.2 miles to parking lot at Newfound Gap.

Leave a Reply