Chimney Tops Trail and Map to Chimney Tops in the Smoky Mountains

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Chimney Tops Trail - Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

Hikers

Although it's only two miles long, the Chimney Tops trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires strength and a bit of caution.Chimney Tops Map - In the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg and the Cherokee Reservation Still, many feel a hike up to "the chimneys" is well worth both the effort and the risk due to the majestic views along this trail, as well as abundant streams, wildflowers, and large trees. Due to these characteristics, Chimney Tops trail has become one of the park's most popular trails.

To reach the trailhead for Chimney Tops from Gatlinburg, TN, you'll want to take Newfound Gap Road into the national park. The only road which completely traverses the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Newfound Gap Road links Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC. You'll continue 6.7 miles from the Sugarlands Vistor Center until you reach the parking lot of the Chimney Tops trailhead. The parking lot and trailhead is located between the "the loop" and the lower tunnel on Newfound Gap Road. If you're traveling from Cherokee to Chimney Tops, take Newfound Gap Road 22 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Once you reach the trailhead's parking lot, there is plenty of room for parking, but due to the popularity of Chimney Tops the trail itself is sometimes a bit crowded. A tour bus in the parking lot usually means the trail is bit more trafficked that day. So, if you are looking to reacquaint yourself with nature along this trail, a hike to Chimney Tops may be better suited for the off-season. If so, in really cold weather beware of ice, as the trail is steep. From the trailhead to the chimney-like pinnacles, the trail rises 1,300 feet, which is basically how this trail got its name. At the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ice tends to form early. The Chimney Tops trail extends to 4,840 feet above sea level.

The low rock wall bordering the parking lot area is where you'll find the start of the trail to Chimney Tops. In this area, trees such as the eastern hemlock are prevalent. The trail makes its decent across the Walker Camp Prong of the Little Pigeon River to a bridge. In fact, several bridges and tributaries cross the trail along the one mile hike to Beech Flats. The Road Prong is crossed by the second and third bridges and continues on to the next landmark, Beech Flats Cove. This is the trail's half way mark. The Chimney Tops Trail crosses the Road Prong Trail at Beech Flats, then reaches the Appalachian Trail at Indian Gap - 2.3 miles away. Stay on the main trail if your destination is Chimney Tops. It will veer right into a creek valley on Sugarland Mountain's north side. An inspiring old growth forest cuts through this part of the trail, but beware of protruding tree roots which have tripped many a hiker as they drift off admiring these old giants of the Smokies. You'll see one of the park's oldest yellow Buckeyes at the top of the gulch, and just beyond it are two sharp switchbacks. These switchbacks take you to the Chimney's very bottoms as they rise from Sugarland Mountain.

The Chimney Tops trail's upper section is not a graded trail as it was when it was first developed. The trail's upper end narrows to a smaller trail, or a manway. The trail continues on quite a distance, but continues to narrow on its way. The manway becomes more of an arduous climb at its steepest point - especially if ice has formed on the trail, which can be rugged in places.

Two miles on the trail and the chimneys come into plain view. Be wary though of the terrain, as you hike the path to the right that leads to the top. From here you'll notice Mount LeConte comes into view to the east, to the south is Mount Mingus, and to the west, one of Sugarland Mountain's steep wooded sides. Be wary in this area as well as Injuries have occurred due to a hole large enough to fall into along the path, so keep your eyes open so that you and your loved ones are staying safe on the trail.

Despite a few preventable pitfalls along the trail, even Chimney Tops' upper end is worn smooth in sporadically by the throngs of hikers willing to risk injury to experience "the chimneys".Chimney Tops View and Chimney Tops Photo Why? An adventure seeker perhaps? Or perhaps the urge to explore the chimneys and experience the thrill for themselves? Perhaps others simply go for the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains Chimney Tops offers, while others want to seek out the abundant beauty of the old growth forest and flora found along the way. Whatever the reason, the trail's popularity continues to grow season after season.

The different plants one encounters along the Chimney Tops trail interesting in themselves. From the flowering trees and shrubs that dot it's length, to the Old Hemlocks grace it's top. Take time to recognize as many as you can along your hike. To start out with, near the first bridge along this trail there is a large Fraser magnolia. Its large, white blossoms are pretty hard to miss when in bloom in late April or early May.

The Hepaticas flower can be found on the Trail to the Chimney TopsRhododendron is a prevalent flower along Chimney Tops trail. White Trillium can be found on the Chimney Tops TrailWildflowers are also common along the trail. In Spring, you can find Hepatica (left) and Trillium (right). In Summer, Bee-balm, Joe-Pye weed, and Jewelweed can be found without much hassle. Toothworts, Foamflowers and Violets also grow in nearby places. People rave about the yellow buckeye trees on the Chimneys trail due to their age, their interesting leaf structure and the flowers which bloom in May. One trip to Chimney Tops and you will understand why the buckeye is so popular.


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