Great Smoky Mountains Cabins, Gatlinburg Tennessee, Wedding Chapels

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 Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains

Mt. 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 snow
Note: Best hiked on a clear day to enjoy the view

In order to avoid climbing during the hotter part of the day, leave the trailhead as early as possible. Not only will you appreciate the extra time for breaks, but you will also stand a better chance of dodging the afternoon thunderstorms that frequent the Smokies during the summer months.

From Cosby Campground, there are two possible routes you can walk to access the tower. Truly adventuresome souls can walk up the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail, take the Appalachian Trail, visit the tower, then continue on the Appalachian Trail, eventually descending down the Low Gap Trail to return to the campground. While this route will afford you a great loop and little to no repetition in scenery, it is a rather lengthy fifteen and a half miles.

The "short route" to Mt. Cammerer is to take the Low Gap Trail to the Appalachian Trail, visit the tower, and return via the same route. The trek is steep, but slightly shorter at ten and a half miles, and is the route most folks use to reach the tower. There is no "easy" way to reach the tower, but those willing to make the trek will be well rewarded!

Due to the shorter distance, we will ascend to the tower on the Low Gap Trail. The first mile or so of the trail is very pleasant, taking you through the lush green forest along Cosby Creek. Eventually, the trail becomes more open, as a series of long switchbacks complete the ascent to the Appalachian Trail. At two and a half miles, you will enter a large clearing and a four-way intersection; take a left onto the Appalachian Trail. After a little more climbing, the trail levels out for a half-mile or so along a beautiful grassy ridge top. You’ll make one more brief climb before reaching the side trail for the Mt. Cammerer fire tower. The trail to the tower is slightly more than half a mile long and fairly level, but does involve some rock scrambling as you approach the tower. Take your time and watch your step.

Unlike the other fire towers that remain in the Smokies, which are made of metal, the Mt. Cammerer fire tower was constructed of native rock and timber. The tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the latter 1930’s, and restored through generous donations from the public during the mid 1990’s. Both the tower and the rocky mountain peak it occupies were named for Arno Cammerer, who was Director of the National Park Service around the time the Smokies were designated as a national park.

You can take in the view from the catwalk that encircles the tower or view it from the tower’s interior, which remains open to the public (despite the fire tower’s cozy interior, it is illegal to camp in the tower and overnight visits are not allowed). To the east you can see Snowbird Mountain, Max Patch, and Mary’s Knob. To the south you can easily make out the Mt. Sterling fire tower. To the west lies the remainder of the Great Smoky Mountains. The view is truly a sight to behold.

When you’re finished taking in the view, eating lunch, or napping on the warm rocks, return to the campground via the same route.

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If your trek to Mt. Cammerer is a day-hike, take a knapsack and carry a few extra items. Include some bottled water and a snack. Never drink the water from a Park stream without boiling it first. Though the streams in the park are invitingly cool and deceptively clear, they contain bacteria that can wreck your trip and a substantial period thereafter, if you succumb to the temptation to drink from them. You might even include a camera in your knapsack too. A backcountry permit is required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Certain campsites are reserved in advance. Permits are available at visitors centers or by calling (865) 436-1231.

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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 Mt. Cammerer Firetower
Cove Mountain Fire Tower Day Hike
Fern Branch Falls Dayhike
Mt. Sterling Fire Tower
Big Creek Trail

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