Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Geographic Location: north of Cherokee, NC (35.51306, -83.30649)
Length: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: October 2012
Overview: A out-and-back along the scenic
. Oconoluftee River
Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=724208
Directions to the trailhead: This hike starts at the national park’s
, which is located on US 441 3.5 miles north of Cherokee. Oconoluftee Visitor Center
The hike: For my introduction to fall hiking in the Smokies, see the Flat Creek hike. Because heavily traveled roads lie within earshot on either side, the Oconoluftee River Trail will not make anyone’s list of great national park hikes. I only hiked this trail because I was trying to squeeze in one more Smoky Mountains hike before I had to head home, and this trail’s ease of hiking and location at the park’s eastern entrance made it the perfect choice for my situation.
The Oconoluftee River Trail does not form a loop, so you will need to either arrange a car shuttle or hike this trail as an out-and-back. In spite of this trail’s many shortcomings, it does provide a pleasant stroll on wide trail beside a scenic, large-volume, mountain river. Thus, this trail merits spending an extra hour or so on your way out of the park.
Start by walking the paved concrete trail around the back of the
. When the trail forks, a brown park sign tells you to angle right to stay on the Oconoluftee River Trail. The left fork leads to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center , a recreated 1930’s-era mountain farm of the kind that populated this region when the park was formed. The Mountain Farm Museum ’s recreated history is worth a visit, so take a few minutes to explore it either now or on your trip back. Mountain Farm Museum
|Mountain Farm Museum, viewed from the outside|
|Herd of elk near Visitor Center|
At 0.75 miles, the trail passes under the
Blue Ridge Parkway’s bridge over the Oconoluftee River. Some steps here lead down to a sandy area on the bank of the river. Benches here and elsewhere spaced about 0.2 miles apart provide opportunities to rest and watch the river’s water flow by.
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance sign|