Campsite #15 – Rabbit Creek
Rabbit Creek Trail – 3.7 miles from the Trailhead at Abrams Creek Campground and , 4.1 miles from the trailhead at Abrams Falls Trail.
Water: Rabbit Creek very near the site
Rabbit Creek Campsite at 1,550 ft. is an inviting place to spend the night, although the first impression is deceiving. The site is split with the upper and most obvious site being rather small with room for perhaps one tent. But on the lower side is a bit of an annex near Rabbit Creek. The site is visited with Eastern Hemlocks providing nice ground cover. Rabbit Creek is a little nicer alternative to CS#16 at Scott Gap and it is a certain improvement over CS #14 at Flint Gap.
Rabbit Creek at CS # 15 with a visit from a friend
- Level tent sites
- Well drained sites
- Low Impact
- Good water source
- Bear Cables
Campsite #14 – Flint Gap
Hannah Mountain Trail – 5.1 miles from the Trailhead at Hatcher Mountain/Abrams Falls Trails, 4.4 miles from the trailhead at Sams Gap.
Water: About 0.3 miles south of the site at a stream crossing in the trail.
Flint Gap at 2,050 ft. is the inspiration for this very feature of this blog. The site is so underwhelming as to warrant special attention. For starters, the site is situated right in the trail itself with the fire ring and bear cables mere feet off the trail. The gap is small and narrow with few level places for tents although up ridge a few yards, one may find a good spot or two. There are plenty of good trees for hammocks but be aware that other hikers will pass in very close proximity to your camp. The guide books speak of a spring down the ridge but it has yet to reveal itself. The better water source is the stream crossing about 0.3 miles south. About the only highlighted feature of the site is the bear cables.
When planning a trip, you may consider Campsite #16 in Scott Gap 3.0 miles north.
Campsite #13 – Sheep Pen Gap
Gregory Bald Trail – 4.1 miles from the Trailhead at Sams Gap on Parson Branch Road, 0.5 miles from Gregory Bald Summit.
Water: About 300 yds short of the campsite to the left of the trail.
Sheep Pen Gap at 4,640 ft. is a marvelous place for a campsite. It is large, grassy, flat and shaded by Yellow Birch trees. It’s half mile proximity to both Gregory Bald and Parson Bald makes it possible to enjoy sunrises and sunsets without much rigorous night hiking. Gregory Bald is only a 10 minute walk up a fairly gradual ascent although headlamps will help negotiate the large rocks that are featured along the trail. The site is quite popular and that is a bit of its disadvantage. During warmer months, it is usually quite well used if not overused.
Sunrise from Gregory Bald
The water source is a completely different matter. It is a spring 300 yards or so down the trail, which is the headwater for Panther Creek, but due perhaps to wild hogs and also to horse traffic, it is typically a muddy mess and care must be taken to find an upstream place to gather your water needs and one should certainly treat all water.
One other note about Campsite #13. It is popular with the bears. Bears are plentiful in the region and the sheer traffic and density of great food smells from crowds of camper attract the hungry bruins, especially in the spring and early summer when their natural food supplies are still in the making. Campsite #13 is frequently closed due to bear activity so check with the park service for bulletins on campsite closures.
- Water (questionable)
- Level tent sites
- Well drained sites
- Bear Cables
- Low impact
- Inspiring Location
- X Factor
Date: April 29, 2016
Miles: 9.5 miles Elevation Gain: 2,149 ft.↑ Elev./Mi: 226.2 Grade: 4%
Difficulty: Class 3 Hiking Time: 3:21 Pace: 2.8 mph Avg. Temp.: 81
Hannah Mountain – Abrams Creek to Rabbit Creek Trail
Hannah Mountain – Rabbit Creek Trail to Sams Gap
Hannah Mountain Trail is one that does not fit easily into a day hike loop. Its trailheads are remote with one crossing Abrams Creek at the end of Abrams Falls Trail, and the other is in Sams Gap on the one way Parson Branch Road leading out of Cades Cove. Plan to carry plenty of water as there is little of it once you leave the trailhead at Abrams Creek. There are two campsites along this path, CS#16 at Scott Gap and CS #14 at Flint Gap.
The trail opens in exciting fashion with a ford of Abrams Creek. In the early spring, this crossing can be deep and treacherous due to cold high water. Even in low water, it is swift and waste deep but with reasonable care, it can be forded safely. There is a short, steep climb away from the creek that quickly settles into a steady climb for the first couple miles. At 1.7 miles the trail crosses Scott Gap Branch before arriving in Scott Gap and the intersection with Rabbit Creek Trail. There is a side trail from the intersection leading to Campsite #16, which is the former site of a shelter. All that remains of the shelter is its concrete foundations but the site is a reasonable choice for camping.
From there, the trail ascends steadily for a mile and a quarter, cresting at Polecat Ridge at 3.2 miles, then rolling along until you reach the small Flint Gap and Campsite #14 at 5.1 miles. CS#14 is rather disappointing as a campsite as there are few level places for tents and the site is quite literally on the trail. There is a small stream crossing on Hannah Branch at 5.4 miles, which is the likely water source for CS #14. The trail climbs again for a mile or so until it levels off around 6.4 miles. All along this section the flora alternates between mixed hardwoods, some pines and then spots of laurel and rhododendron. The trail is fairly level as to the end as it rolls along the ridge of Hannah Mountain. The trial ends at Sams Gap where Parson Branch Road crosses on its way to US 129.
Parson Branch Road at Sams Gap
Hannah Mountain Trailhead at Sams Gap
Date: April 29, 2016
Miles: 7.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1,582 ft.↑ Elev./Mi: 202.7 Grade: 4%
Difficulty: Class 3 Hiking Time: 2:42 Pace: 2.9 mph Avg. Temp.: 75
Trailhead to Scott Gap
Scott Gap to Abrams Creek
Rabbit Creek is an overall delightful hiking experience with several highlights and options. It makes for a fine loop hike that includes Abrams Fall Trail. There is ample water on the route and there are two campsites, CS #15 and CS #16. It is a challenge to hike the entire length of its 7.8 miles in one trip unless you opt for a 15 mile Yo-yo. This is due to the trailheads being prohibitively far apart; one in Cades Cove and the other many driving miles away in Abrams Creek Campground.
The trail begins at the Abrams Falls Trail intersection at the parking area off Cades Cove Loop Road. Within 100 yards, you must ford Mill Creek near it’s confluence with Abrams Creek. It is a shallow ford about 35 yards wide. The trail is an old mountain road and ascends steadily over 2.5 miles up Boring Ridge through a pine forest. At 1.0 miles you cross More Licker Branch and continue climbing steadily until the trail apexes on Andy McCully Ridge at 2.0 miles. After a brief
level walk the trial begins a steady descent until you reach Campsite #15 – Rabbit Creek at 4.1 miles. Rabbit Creek, the trails namesake is just beyond the site at 4.2 miles. The Rabbit Creek crossing is wet and can be difficult in high water. At 5.1 miles, you reach Scott Gap where the trail intersects with the Hannah Mountain Trail which leads 1.9 miles to the right and intersects with Abrams Falls Trail. Campsite #16 – Scott Gap is down a side trail at this intersection. It is the site of a former shelter. From Scott Gap, the trail climbs slightly for a mile to crest Pine Mountain and then descends steadily to Abrams Creek at 7.6 miles. Ordinarily there is a footlog across Abrams Creek but in times of high water, the bridge becomes disconnected from it’s mornings as was the case in this hike. Consequently, the hiker must ford the creek before reaching the trailhead at 7.8 miles, making Rabbit Creek one of the few trails with a wet crossing at either end.
Footlog on the side of Abrams Creek
Date: April 29, 2016
Miles: 1.0 miles Elevation Gain: 20 ft.↑ Elev./Mi: 20 Grade: 0%
Difficulty: Class 1 Hiking Time: 0:20 Pace: 2.9 mph Avg. Temp.: 75
Wet Bottom Trail is aptly named as it passes across the Abrams Creek flood plain. It is a connector between Cooper Road Trail and the intersections with Rabbit Creek and Abrams Falls trails. Due to prevalent horse traffic in the summer months, the trail can be rather muddy in rainy times. But if you catch it on a dry day, it is a pleasant alternative to hiking the Cades Cove Loop road. For 900 milers, it is best to integrate this trail with several loop options, principally the Cooper Road to Hatcher Mountain to Abrams Falls loop; enabling you to park either at the Abrams Falls Parking area or at the small parking area at the trailhead for Cooper Road Trail
Wet Bottom starts at the intersection on Cooper Road Trail. It descends ever so slightly through a recent controlled burn area and meets up with Abrams Creek. At. 0.2 miles, you pass a red barn built by John Oliver in the early 1900’s. At 0.5 miles the trail intersects with a side trail to the John Oliver Cabin. Finally, at 0.9 miles you reach Abrams Creek. You can ford the creek or you can choose to take the parallel trail to the connector from Abrams Falls trailhead to Oliver’s Cabin. Keeping your feet dry may be a wise goal but if you continue on to Rabbit Creek Trail, your efforts are in vain. Wet Bottom ends at the Abrams Falls Trail parking area, which also serves as the trailhead for Rabbit Creek Trail.
Date: April 27, 2016
Miles: 0.5 miles Elevation Gain: 75 ft.↑ Elev./Mi: 150 Grade: 3%
Difficulty: Class 1 Hiking Time: 0:10 Pace: 3.0 mph Avg. Temp.: 78
The trailhead for Cooper Creek Trail is on Cooper Creek Road, 3 miles from US Hwy. 19 between Cherokee and Bryson City, NC. The trail is a connector from Cooper Creek Road to Deeplow Gap Trail. There is no public parking. The guidebooks suggest getting permission to park on private property. For the 900 Miler, you are best to hike this small section when you cover Deeplow Gap Trail. Access is not straightforward and it’s a long way to go for a half mile of hiking. Plus, it only take about 10 minutes total.
Cooper Creek Trail is one of a handful of trails in the park that leads one to wonder why it is an official trail at all. It’s purpose is to provide access much like the way many trailheads lead from campgrounds or picnic areas. But because it’s an easy hike and convenient if captured along with Deploy Gap, the level of annoyance is minimal. The trail is a gravel road bed. At about 300 yds, you will see a clearing on private property across the creek. At 0.2 miles the creek and the trail literally merge for 100 yards or so. It is possible to bypass wet feet on the left bank but bear in mind, the creek is the park boundary so you are on private property at that point. At 0.5 miles you cross the Cooper Creek on a footlog and the Deeplow Gap trail is just beyond.