Trail: Brushy Mountain via Trillium Gap
Distance: 6.8 miles round trip
Total Elevation Gain: 1,745 feet
Directions: At light #8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Airport Road. After 0.7 miles, stay to the right onto Cherokee Orchard Road. Travel another 2.2 miles into the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. Stay 0.9 miles on the loop and turn right onto Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The parking lot for the trail to Brushy Mountain will be on the left side of the road, and people also park alongside the road beyond the parking area. This is a very busy trail, so I recommend getting there as early as possible. We were able to snag an actual parking spot because we start our hikes around 8am, but when we came back it was an absolute sea of cars with both sides of the road lined with vehicles. Madness, I tell you. Madness!
Did you expect anything else? C'mon, you know the drill by now!
Trillium Gap trail leads to Grotto Falls (where most beginner hikers turn back), Brushy Mountain, and the summit of LeConte. In fact, this trail is the llama route up LeConte for workers at the Lodge, so the trail is littered with llama poo. Watch your step!
It was a misty day, and the trail is heavily shaded. It was downright dark in some places.
The early morning sun filtered through the mist and was really quite beautiful.
We saw our first small waterfall just before reaching Grotto.
Because we arrived early, we had Grotto Falls completely to ourselves, which was ideal because we were able to take the popular "standing behind the falls" photos! When we came back down later in the day, the place was so crowded with people that getting a clean photo would have been impossible.
It's so unique to be able to walk behind the falls!
From behind the falls. We got wet from the spray, but at least it was a hot day!
Past the falls, the trail continues up the mountain.
As we climbed, the clouds got thicker..
Pretty light filtering through the leaves.
I got a little excited when I saw these red leaves. I thought for sure it was a hint of fall! Not likely (this hike was in August) but hey.. I can dream.
The clouds were moving quickly, so we experienced periods of sunlight, followed by dark mist again.
You'll eventually come to a crossroads where you can choose several directions, including the LeConte summit or Brushy Mountain.. we were just 0.2 miles from our destination!
This was the neatest part of this trail, or maybe any trail, that I've seen. The last quarter mile of the trail is literally a tunnel of rhododendrons and mossy rocks. The trail itself is loose flat rocks that made walking quickly a pain in the butt, but it was so flippin' cool!
When we reached the end we were greeted with what we expected.. a view obscured by thick fast-moving clouds. It was still cozy and nice.
As the clouds blew through, sometimes we couldn't see to the next hillside, and sometimes we could. We even caught a brief glimpse of LeConte!
The usual. Fluffernutter and Elviswich (pb and banana) No, we aren't creatures of habit - why do you ask?
I was feeling nostalgic and brought along some animal crackers to relive a bit of my childhood.
Overall, great trail!! Definitely take our advice and go early, because the crowds were a real pain when coming back down through Grotto Falls, and parking later in the day would have been impossible. So set those alarms and brew that coffee!
Thanks for the pictures and trail writeup. I hiked this many years ago now and still remember that rhododendron tunnel. Maybe I'll go back up someday soon 🙂
How early did you start at the trail?
We were at the parking area by around 8am. 🙂
Yay for hikin' pitchers!