2015 Recommended Hikes
by Marti Smith, Smoky Mountain 900 Miler
& GSMA's Membership Associate
November - Deep Creek's Three Waterfalls: Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls, and Juney Whank Falls
Rated: Moderate, this is one of the few trails in the park that offers so many highlights with so little effort.
Start out by heading over to Deep Creek Campground out of Bryson City and park in the hiker parking lot at the end of the road. There you'll see the Juney Whank Falls Trail sign.
Take a deep breath, because the first .3 of a mile will be the steepest part of this hike; however, once you arrive you'll enjoy watching this waterfall from the foot log that passes in front of the falls. Continue on past the falls to the junction with the Deep Creek Trail and turn right. Follow the trail to Indian Creek Trail, where you'll encounter beautiful Indian Creek Falls about 200 feet ahead. Indian Creek Falls is a cascade with a deep pool at the base.
After enjoying this one, back track to the Deep Creek Trail and follow it to the right. Take the trail back to the parking lot, but be sure to look for Tom Branch Falls on your left, on the other side of Deep Creek. There are a couple of benches by the water that allow you to enjoy Tom Branch Falls while relaxing. In addition, fall color may still be enjoyable in the beginning of November.
One more perk here: The new GSMA visitor center is located in Bryson City's old courthouse. Stop by to check out our new merchandise and be sure to visit the museum upstairs.
October - Hen Wallow Falls
The trail to Hen Wallow Falls meanders around the northeastern slopes of Gabes Mountain. You will be hiking through a forest of moist woodlands with giant trees of many species. You cross creeks with names such as “Rock Creek” and “Crying Creek.” To find out why “Crying Creek” is so named, read the “Waterfalls of the Smokies” narrative of this hike.
At 2.1 miles from the trailhead an 800-foot side trail takes you to the base of the falls. The cascade is 95 feet tall and is one of the tallest falls in the Smokies. In dry weather it begins as a two-stream waterfall that can be six feet apart at times. It eventually merges back to form a 30-foot stream at its base.
This is an enjoyable hike any time of year, but fall color is especially notable in October.
4.2 miles round trip, rated moderate with a 800-foot gain/loss
To get there: Take Highway 32 to Cosby Campground. Two miles into the campground area, park at the picnic area parking lot. Gabes Mountain Trailhead is across the street from the parking lot.
September - Little Cataloochee
Little Cataloochee Trail to Little Cataloochee Baptist Church and return.
4 miles round trip, rated easy, nice early fall hike
Highlights – 2 historic buildings
Directions: Take exit 20 on I-40 to Cove Creek Road on right. This will take you to the Little Cataloochee entrance of the Smokies. Stay on the gravel road until you reach a three-way intersection with a paved road on the left. Go straight on the gravel road another 4.5 miles until you reach the trailhead on the left.
Your first mile will be an easy walk until you reach the John Jackson Hannah Cabin. John came here in 1857 with his bride. In 1864 he updated the cabin and the building stands as you see it today. It is one of the 3 buildings in the park that has a full standing brick chimney.
Continue hiking and within ¼ mile you will cross Little Cataloochee Creek. Within another ¾ mile you will see the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church on a small hill to your left. The scalloped boards on the roof trim are evidence of the skills that local artisans used in constructing this building. The ornate steeple was added in the 1910s by Will Messer and was his design. This is your destination and a great place for a picnic lunch.
The Little Cataloochee Baptist Church is a wonderful destination if you are looking for a fairly easy hike. It lets you get a glimpse of what life was like in the good old days in the Smokies.
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