Late spring and summer bring humidity and stifling heat to the southeast, but the cool breezes of the high Appalachians provide a perfect escape. Sample the deep forest and rocky ridges of Tennessee’s largest wilderness on this moderate 7-mile loop.
From the Mill Branch Trail, hike 2.5 miles up to the Tennessee-North Carolina crest at Big Stack Gap. Turn north on the Fodderstack Trail (now part of the 300-mile Benton MacKaye Trail) and go another mile to reach a flat, grassy campsite at the Big Stack Gap Trail junction. Pitch your tent here, or .1 mile ahead at Crowder Place, where you’ll find a reliable year-round spring. The next morning, brush up on your navigation skills along the Crowder Branch Trail—the path’s upper end follows the creek through thick rhododendron patches. After 2.6 miles, rejoin Forest Road 69 and walk .8 mile to close the loop.
Info: Cherokee National Forest Hiking Guide, by William H. Skelton. (423) 476-9700; www.southernregion.fs.fed.us/cherokee
Hike provided by Smoky Mountains Hiking ClubEvent and membership info: smhclub.org