The Little Brier Gap trail to Walker Sisters Place begins at the Metcalf Bottoms Trail next to the wildly popular picnic area. Locals and tourists alike arrive early in the morning to claim the picnic tables for a day of fun. It’s not uncommon to see large groups setting up camp for the entire day, cooking out all three meals right there next to the creek.
Round trip Length: 4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 305 Feet
From the Townsend Y intersection near Cades Cove, drive 7.4 miles to reach the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Once parked, go back across the bridge over the creek and turn right to pick up the Metcalf Bottoms Trail
Note: For a shorter hike, there is a small parking lot at the Little Greenbrier School and you can pick up the Little Brier Gap trail from there. This will save you 120ft of elevation gain and 1.4 miles off the round trip. Turn left into the picnic area and drive across the one-lane bridge. At 0.4 miles from Little River Road, turn right onto Little Greenbrier Road. The parking area for the Little Brier Gap Trailhead is a short way up the gravel road.
The trail itself is well-maintained and smooth without too many rocky areas or large tree roots, so though the distance was ambitious for our kiddos, we decided to bring them along and see how they’d do.
We parked at the picnic area and started our hike to Walker Sisters Place by picking up the Metcalf Bottoms Trail to Little Greenbrier School.
Like many of the trails in the Smokies, there’s no lack of wildflowers to behold. Shelby was in heaven.
But this guy was a real treat to see! He was sitting right in the middle of the trail. I wish I added something to the photo to show the scale, because he was a BIG boy!! I later identified him as an alligator snapping turtle.
For some reason, the majority of bridges on Smoky Mountain trails look like this… just a flattened log with a single rail on one side. And it’s usually leaning. They are rock solid, but still, what’s up with that?! Other national/state parks we’ve hiked in have full railings on both sides, but these bridges, though beautiful, freak me out when I have my kids with me. They can be quite high and if they lose their balance they can take quite a fall!
Jasper is an anxious and fearful boy, but once he gets enough practice at something he can overcome his fears. He used to be terrified of these single railing bridges, but now he crosses them like a champ! I’m so proud of him when I see him conquer something that previously scared him.
At 0.7 miles in the trail passes the Little Greenbrier School, built in 1882. It was used as a schoolhouse and also for church services. The last classes were held in 1935 and the school is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
There’s a very old graveyard behind the school with many headstones that are still legible or that have been replaced and updated.
In these old graveyards it’s common to see infant graves or graves of very young toddlers. So sad.
There were a lot of big-arse trees.
Jasper being a little prissysiss and Shelby hunting for flowers and bugs as usual.
We try to remember to take family photos as often as we can. I just set the 10-second timer on my camera, propped it up onto our hiking backpack, and there she blows.
Little Greenbrier became well known as a result of the Walker Sisters. The five sisters who lived here refused to sell the property to the park and insisted on preserving their mountain lifestyle until the 1960s. While there were previously more buildings on the property, the home, corn crib, and spring house are the only ones that have survived.
Exploring the inside of the preserved and restored cabin is very interesting. You can even climb a ladder to the second floor, which we didn’t do because no amount of convincing could get my kids to go up that ladder. Wonder if they see Santa up there?
Look what we found tucked into the ceiling beams!! Babieeeess
This little structure is a spring house that is constructed over a cold mountain creek and used for many purposes, including keeping debris out of the water and for keeping food cool when electric refrigeration wasn’t an option.
One more shot at a family photo on the porch of the main cabin. I also took this using the self timer and propping the camera up on the porch railing. I think the second attempt came out better!
The hike back took longer than it should due to this little miss wanting to examine every single wildflower she spotted. Girl is obsessed with her flowers!
Back over the creek we go.
“Take a picture of me being brave of the bridge, mama!”
After getting back to the picnic area we saw that nearly every table had been claimed and people had really set up shop with full grill setups, tent canopies, chairs, lawn games, etc. It was a really fun atmosphere and now I totally want to plan an entire day of hanging out here. Wouldn’t that be fun?!
The creek here is so wide, shallow, and safe. It’s absolutely perfect for wading.
It didn’t take us long to strip off our shoes and wade into the freezing mountain waters, which felt amazing on our post-hike feet.
Geez, mom, this is cold!
Love my wild girl.
Though you have to be wary of the larger slippery rocks, this is one of the safest places we’ve found in the mountains for wading. It’s a perfect creek.
If you want to develop the physical competency of your young children, just have them navigate over slippery creek rocks!
I love their stiff I-can’t-feel-my-feet-mom smiles, ha.
This was right before she full on sat down in the chilly water with all of her clothes on. Yup.
While this hike was a little longer than we like to do when we have the kiddos in tow, it was a beautiful trail and the stop at the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area is an absolute must, even if you’re not hiking and just passing through the area.
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