Date: April 23, 2016
Miles: 7.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,555 ↑ Elev./Mi: 207 Grade: 4%
Difficulty: Class 3 Hiking Time: 2:48 Pace: 2.7 mph Avg. Temp.: 72
Section: Cades Cove
This is a good, moderately difficult loop that is easy to get to. The trailhead is on Laurel Creek Road, 5.5 miles from the Townsend “Y”. This trailhead is where several trails meet in the section including both Lead Cove and Finely Cane as well as Turkey Pen Ridge. This intersection offers a number of loop possibilities depending on the desired length of the hike. There is plenty of water along the route but there are no campsites. The closest site is CS#18 at 0.6 miles past the intersection.
- Lead Cove Trail to Bote Mountain Trail 1.8 miles
- Bote Mountain Trail to West Prong Trail 2.8 miles
- Bote Mountain Trail (return) to Finley Cane Trail 0.3 miles
- Finely Cane Trail to Trailhead 2.6 miles
The morning was cool and cloudy, good for cranking some mileage. Lead Cove Trail is a steady 1,161 ft climb at 12% through mixed hardwoods. There are a couple stream crossings at 0.4 miles over Sugar Cove Prong and again at 1.4 miles at Laurel Cove Creek. Lead Cove terminates at 1.8 miles into Bote Mountain Trail. Note to 900 milers: You may consider hiking the 1.2 miles of Bote Mountain Trail up to the Intersection with Anthony Creek and returning. The upper section of Bote Mountain is commonly hiked in a loop with Anthony Creek trail. Neglecting this segment can create an orphan. However, ignoring this advice, we hiked on down Bote Mountain to West Prong Trail. This section loses most of the elevation gained on Lead Cove in a gentle descent over its 2.8 miles. The segment between Finley Cane Trail and West Prong Trail is a mere 0.3 miles and we elected to grab it in less than 10 minutes of walking. Finley Cane Trail undulates a bit losing more elevation than is gained for a net 259 ft. over 2.6 miles. There are creek crossings at 1.0 miles over Finely Cove Creek, 2.0 miles at Hickory Tree Branch and shortly beyond at Laurel Cove Creek.
Overall, this loop hike is quite enjoyable. The section features many opportunities to view wildflowers over the season and bear sightings are common.