National Park Hike - Mount Cammerer

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Mount Cammerer Fire Tower Dayhike

Description & Photo by Jacqueline Lott

Length: 10 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Strenuous
Highlights: 360 degree view of the east end of the park
Caution: Rocks around tower may be difficult to negotiate, especially in the snow
Note: Best hiked on a clear day in order to better enjoy the view

It's imperative to get an early start on the trail to Mt. Cammerer during the spring and summer months. Not only will you appreciate the extra time for breaks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you will also avoid those pesky afternoon thunderstorms that seem to pop up at the drop of a hat in the Smokies during the summer months.

About 25 minutes outside Gatlinburg from the Cosby Campground, the tower can be accessed from two possible routes. For those with an adventurous state of mind, the Lower Mount Cammerer Trail is probably your preferred route. You'll take the Appalachian Trail, stop by the tower, then continue along the Appalachian Trail, eventually traveling down the Low Gap Trail and back to the campground. While the scenery along this route is something words can't describe, it's not for the novice hiker as the loop totals 15 and a half miles.

The "shorter" of the Mount Cammerer hikes takes you on the Low Gap Trail which meets the Appalachian Trail, stops by the tower, and returns via the same route. It's a steep trek, slightly shorter at 10 and a half miles, and is the most common route hikers take in order to reach the tower. For lack of a better word, “easy” is not the best term when referring to this hike. Nevertheless, for those who love the trail and all of nature's surprises, this route does not disappoint.

Because it is shorter mile wise, we'll take the Low Gap Trail to the tower. The first mile of this park trail is very pleasant and green, especially along Cosby Creek. Eventually, the trail opens up, and you reach the Appalachian Trail through a series of switchbacks. You will take a left onto the Appalachian Trail at a large clearing, at which is located a four-way intersection – basically at the two and a half mile mark. The trail levels out, after a short climb, for a half-mile or so along a ridge top full of lush green grass. Another brief climb and you've reached the Mount Cammerer fire tower's side trail. The trail to the tower is fairly long, slightly more than half a mile, and does involve some maneuvering among the rocks as you approach the tower. So, watch your step and take your time.

Unlike the rest of the Great Smoky Mountain fire towers, which are made of metal, the Mount Cammerer fire tower was constructed of timber and native rock. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s, the fire tower was restored through generous public donations in the mid 1990’s. The tower and the rocky mountain peak it occupies were named in honor of Arno Cammerer. Around the time that the Smokies were designated as a national park, Cammerer served as director of the National Park Service.

You can take in the view from the tower’s interior, which remains open to the public (it is illegal to camp in the tower, despite the tower's cozy interior, and overnight visits are not allowed) or from the catwalk that encircles the tower. Snowbird Mountain, Mary’s Knob, and Max Patch lie to the east. You can see the Mount Sterling fire tower to the south. And the remainder of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies to the west. The view is really second to none from this vantage point.

You can get back to the campground by following the same route. Of course, that's when you’re done taking in the park's majestic views, eating lunch, or napping on the warm rocks.

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Other Park Hikes

Abrams Falls Trail
Alum Cave Bluff Trail
The Boogerman Trail Loop
Ramsay Cascades Trail
Rainbow Falls Trail
Hike to Shuckstack Tower
Chimney Tops
Old Settlers Trail
Hike to LeConte Lodge
Day Hike to Mount Cammerer Firetower
Cove Mountain Fire Tower Day Hike
Fern Branch Falls Dayhike
Mount Sterling Fire Tower
Big Creek Trail

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