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North Carolina Trails

Hesse Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC

Even locals hardly know about this secluded spot

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Rangers issue hundreds of permits a month for popular backcountry sites in the bustling Smokies. But for Hesse Creek (site 003) in the northwest corner, it’s three or four. How do we know? We called the backcountry office and asked about use statistics. Follow the numbers to this peaceful spot, tucked under a hemlock canopy and habitat for grouse, black bears, and deer, via the 5.6-mile Ace Gap Trail. Info: nps.gov/grsm

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