Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Fall 2023 Rich Mountain Loop

AlexHauck.Com

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Sunday, October 22, 2023

The Rich Mountain Loop Hike is by far one of my favorite fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains. The trail does have some elevation to it so you have to work for it, but it offers some great colors in the fall. You can also tell the difference between the leaves at different stages of elevation on this hike.

I have hiked the trail in both directions, and for me it does not seem to make that much of a difference. I have heard people say clockwise is a bit easier, but I do not really think that is true. Being that his trail lies at the entrance of Cades Cove I have seen at least one bear on the trail each time I have hiked it but once. Please give them their space as it is their home.

Loop Trails:

·

Rich Mountain Loop Trail

............

0.50 Miles

·

Crooked Arm Ridge Trail

............

2.20 Miles

·

Indian Grave Gap Trail

............

2.60 Miles

·

Rich Mountain Loop Trail

............

2.90 Miles


Crooked Arm Ridge will be your first right had turn coming up to the trail sign after starting on Rich Mountain Loop for about a half mile. This trail has several switchbacks as you head up to the ridge. About a quarter mile up Crooked Arm, if it has been rainy, Crooked Arm Cascade will be just off trail to your right. If it has been dry there will not be much to look at if anything, but after a good rain it is a beautiful waterfall.


Close to the end of Crooked Arm and the beginning of Indian Grave Gap there will be a nice vista on your left. Most of the climb is over at this point and it will be easy going on the ridgeline. You will want to keep following Indian Grave Gap past Rich Mountain Trail until it intersects with Rich Mountain Loop. Along this ridgeline there will be a couple of opportunities to be able to see Townsend in the distance.

Photo Credit Mary Ellen Hauck

Rich Mountain Loop Trail will start your decent over some more switchback before it straightens out. Around seven and half miles into the hike you will come to John Oliver Cabin where you will normally run into a lot of people who usually stop the drive around the Cove to have a look. After that you are back into the forest and after passing a couple of shallow creeks you will be back to the start.


Again, this is a fantastic fall hike that you cannot beat for ease and leaf color during the fall. It is also a good winter hike as you can get to the Rich Mountain Trail if some of the park entrances are closed. As always my friends hike on, and stay safe out there.

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