Thursday, April 11, 2024

Abrams Falls & Rabbit Creek Loop

Trip Journal:
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
March 28 – 30, 2024 


- Day One: Thursday March 28, 2024 -  

I got off work at 16:00 and went directly to the trailhead. It was a nice little hike in, and I was a little concerned because I felt like crud most of the day plus my back was hurting again. Once I was in the park most everything just washed away and during most of the short hike, I felt good. My back was still somewhat of a problem, and I hoped it would not hinder me too much on the rest of the trip. 


Area Trail Map
~ Click Here for the PDF Trail Map ~

My Route:

Day One

3D rendering of My Route



(1)

Cooper Road Trail

0.9 Miles

(2)

Little Bottoms to CS17

1.6 Miles

Day Two

(3)

CS17 Little Bottoms

0.7 Miles

(4)

Hatcher Mountain Trail

1.9 Miles

(5)

Abrams Falls Trail

4.2 Miles

(6)

Rabbit Creek Trail to CS15

4.4 Miles

Day Three

(7)

CS15 Rabbit Creek Trail

3.4 Miles


Since I got a late start the first day was a short hike of around 2.5 miles from Cooper Road to the Little Bottoms campsite CS17. When you first start Little Bottoms there is quite an uphill climb, but it is short and eventually becomes a nice walk. This was a nice campsite with plenty of room to spread out. I did a plow style tarp shelter and got a good fire going right off the start. I was able to read, relax and eat then went to bed around 21:30.
 
I Slept well but got a little cold early in the morning and was chilled just a bit even in the sleeping bag. I should have gone with an A-Frame shelter which is a little less exposed with more protection from wind. At one point during the night, I heard a pack of wild cyoties and though I did not see anything one sounded close.


- Day Two: Friday March 29, 2024 -  

It took me a little while to get up as my back was sore to the point it even hurt to roll. Once I got up and started moving it seemed to stretch itself out and I did not have a problem the rest of the day. I made coffee, ate breakfast, and tore down camp then I was on my way to Abrams Falls.

This section of Little Bottoms, Hatcher Mountain, and Abrams Falls is an extremely nice hike. Still being early spring the foliage has not popped yet so you can get some good views of the surrounding mountains. It really is quite stunning. 

I made it to the falls just before 11:00 and HAD IT ALL TO MYSELF!!! This will probably never happen to me again as Abrams Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains. Earlier in the week we had a bad storm move through and it did a number to the park with downed trees. They still had the road to Cades Cove closed, which meant the only access to the falls was the trail I came down from the Abrams Creek Ranger Station. 


I had a snack, took pictures, video and just took it all in for an hour. I even saw a blue heron fly overhead and thought it was good luck because my grandfather always liked them. Turned out to be an omen for what came next. 

Saw my first person since leaving camp in the morning and she had hiked in the same way I did and was getting ready to have the same experience I had had at the waterfall. I was moving quickly, filming, getting some good shots for my video, and having a good old time. Then after rounding Horseshoe Knob, I hit the first small cluster of fallen trees. These were not a problem and I got through them without any problems. 

I then came to the second cluster of fallen trees that took me a little time to squeeze my way through. Then came the third round of about seven or eight large trees down over the trail and it was real work getting through these. Army crawling, climbing all with a large backpacking pack on. At this point I thought about turning back around and hiking back up to Hatcher Mountain then over to Rabbit Creek, but felt I was committed. Working back through those down trees just felt more dauting then moving forward. 


When I reached the fourth or fifth of these clusters, I just was not going to fit through with my pack. I could not go up with all the mountain laurel so the only option I had was to hike Abrams Creek. Hiking upstream in a knee high, or more, creek on slippery rocks, with a heavy backpacking pack on is just as hard as slugging through fallen trees. Finally made my way around but now I was faced with a high creek bank with a steep slope. The last five feet took everything I had as I was hanging and pulling up with one arm holding a root with truly little foot traction if any. 

I was literarily now just less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. At this point I took a moment and gathered myself and the plan I had formed was to finish Abrams Creek and get over to Rabbit Creek. If Rabbit Creek was in the same condition as Abrams Falls, I might have to bivouac and spend an extra night out, or hike back to Cades Cove Road where I might find someone to drive me out of the park. 

There were a few more small clusters of trees but nothing that impacted my hiking and finally reached the trailhead. The last three quarter to half mile of this hike took me about an hour and half to two hours to finish. This small section was probably the toughest hiking I have done to date. 

I ran into another hiker coming from the Abrams Fall parking lot and we talked for a few minutes. I wanted to warn him about going up Abrams Falls but he was actually heading my way up Rabbit Creek. He came from Gregory Ridge and had some blowdowns to deal with as well. He was going to have a snack and I headed on. 


To get on Rabbit Creek from the Abrams Falls parking lot there is a creek crossing without a bridge. Once you are on Rabbit Creek there will be decent elevation to contend with for most of the hike to the backcountry campsite. At this point I was beyond spent but for some reason I get a certain satisfaction from pushing myself. I took a break to eat a Cliff Bar and hydrate for my final push to camp and had to chuckle at my location Coon Butt Mountain at 2,315ft. 

From here it was mostly downhill and when I finally rolled up to camp, I sat down pack and all, totally wasted. It took me 15-20 minutes to get up and start camp chores with hydration being the main thing now. The water source here was a little further away so it did take a couple trips, but after that I started collecting firewood and got food started.


Camp was buggy so the smoke from the fire helped to clear them, and it was good for drying out my feet. I setup my tarp in an A-Frame configuration this time to help with the cold then made myself up a much-needed backcountry old fashion. I made it with some Burbon, of course, and a splash of orange Gatorade, and to be quite honest it was not bad. I will have to remember this one for future trips. I was so tired I did not read or make any tea that night so all I did was eat and finish my drink. I slept like a rock that night and did not get up until around 09:00. 

- Day Three: Saturday, March 30, 2024 - 

It took me forever to get up and I was extremely sore, and it was a while before I finally loosened up. I started to feel better once I had some coffee, breakfast, and Advil in me. The first part of my hike today was a creek crossing about knee level so I took my time tearing down camp and packing my gear so it would warm up a little. I even made a second pot of coffee. 

The crossing was not bad at all, and I was on my way and soon hit another good uphill swing. I was surprised at how well I was moving after such a strenuous day before, but I was really feeling good. Again, without the foliage good views were abundant, the sun was out, and it was getting warm. Who could ask for anything more? 


Before you get back to the ranger station and Abrams Creek campground you will have to cross Abrams Creek. There used to be a bridge here but it got washed away in a storm. This one was quite the crossing all the way up to the giblets. Once I got across and hike a little way on there is a sign with an arrow pointing to where to cross the creek. Of course it was ankle deep here and if I would have hiked a little ways down the creek on the other side I could have crossed here. Duly noted for next time. 


After ending up back at the ranger station I took a moment to ponder my two night trip in the Great Smoky Mountains to Abrams Falls and back. Even with the hard hiking through the down trees it was such a wonderful time. I absolutely love it here and enjoy being out in nature. You could do this hike in a day but it was nice to be able to take my time and linger longer in spots taking it all in. 
As always my friends, Hike On and Stay Safe Out There!

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