Appalachian Trail: Lovers Leap Loop - Backpacker

Appalachian Trail: Lovers Leap Loop

Sample a classic stretch of the Appalachian Trail on this 11.5-mile route around a 1,000-foot gorge, with overlooks and eye-candy vistas of the Smokies.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 17.5



Location: 35.8931541442871, -82.8220062255859

Head N; after .1 mi., join River Rd. and continue downriver on road


Location: 35.8960647583008, -82.8230972290039

R onto Reservoir Rd. (turns into dirt track). Follow to water tank; pick up Roundtop Ridge Trail (follow yellow blazes)


Location: 35.9000663757324, -82.8107223510742

Swing NE, ascending Roundtop Ridge (an original route for the Appalachian Trail, now rerouted)


Location: 35.9224052429199, -82.8025054931641

L @ T onto white-blazed AT for .4 mi. side hike to fire tower


Location: 35.9273529052734, -82.805046081543

Rich Mountain (3,670 ft.). Climb fire tower for SW views of Smokies from Mount Cammerer to Mount Guyot. Return to WPT 4 and continue S on AT


Location: 35.9101791381836, -82.7909317016602

Cross US 25 @ Tanyard Gap on AT overpass; walk briefly on FR 113 and turn L from gravel road onto trail (white blazes)


Location: 35.9050140380859, -82.7900619506836

AT joins dirt road; in 480 ft., stay R on road, following white blazes; in .3 mi. turn R back onto trail leading through open meadows then into woods past a pond


Location: 35.8880577087402, -82.7955932617188

Reach Pump Gap and go straight @ 4-way, following vertiginous crest of Lovers Leap Ridge


Location: 35.8908958435059, -82.8193817138672

Short side trail to Lovers Leap, an outcrop of hard quartzite (compressed beach sand from 500 million years ago). Continue .1 mi. on AT above swirling French Broad River and hamlet of Hot Springs, NC


Location: 35.8874778747559, -82.8203277587891

Pass several rapids foaming over quartzite grooves on the .4 mi. hike N back to car

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

Location: 35.9273529052734, -82.8049011230469

Climb fire tower for SW views of Smokies from Mount Cammerer to Mount Guyot. ©Bob Harvey

Lovers' Leap view

Location: 35.8907508850098, -82.8193130493164

A view of Hot Springs as seen from Lovers' Leap, high above the French Broad River. This vantage point is only 100 feet or so off the AT. ©Bob Harvey

French Broad rapids

Location: 35.888858795166, -82.8206939697266

Rapids foaming over quartzite grooves © Kathy Case