Tag Archives: Beard Cane Trail

Beard Cane Trail

Date:    02.26.2016

Miles:  4.2 miles           Elevation Gain:  420↑         Elev./Mi:   100        Grade:     2%          

Difficulty:  Class 1      Hiking Time: 1:31       Pace:  2.9  mph         Avg. Temp.:   68        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Beard Cane Trail  Beard Cane Elevation

Beard Cane Trail offers quite a diverse hiking experience in that it probably the straightest trail in the park and it has three distinct sections over its 4 miles. The first section is characterized by the massive blowdown damage in the cove along its first mile and a half.  Once through the blowdown section the trail enters the woods for a nice flat hike with 16 creek crossings, many of which are wet crossings, affording the hiker the chance to test the waterproof capability of their boots.  And, as this trail is most likely to be hiked as a roundtrip, it doubles the number of wet creek crossings. Finally, there is a steady climb to the end of the section through mixed hardwood forrest.

There is no trailhead.  The trail can be accessed from the intersection between Cooper Road Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail, or in Blair Gap at the end of the Ace Gap Trail.  The trail does not fit well into a loop hike but there is a nice campsite for an overnighter.  This hike was part of a backpacking trip out of Abrams Creek Campground and was hiked as a roundtrip.

IMG_2493From the intersection with Cooper Road Trail, the trail descends gradually for the next 3 miles to Campsite #3.  At 0.4 miles, the trail enters a cove between Hatcher Mountain and Beard Cane Mountain.  The Brown Book of 2001 described this section as nicely shaded but that is a remnant of history as at some point there was a devastating wind storm that came through the cove sipping out virtually all the trees.  There is evidence of a huge tangled mess of blowdowns through which the Park Service did a great job of cutting through.  The trail is edged by briars and new undergrowth.  There are two ways to consider this trail.  One as an ordeal to survive for the 900 miler but rather, it is a chance to experience how creation renews itself following a devastating event
that is very much a part of the cycle of life.  The trail runs through several wet swampy parts over its first mile or so.

IMG_2495At 1.0 miles, there is a signpost typical of those marking the backcountry campsites.  This one announces Campsite #11 but there is no campsite to be found among the solid blowdowns and thorny undergrowth.  There is not even a remnant of a flat place where the campsite might have been.  CS #11 is on many of the older maps but it is not active on the Park Service Backcountry Reservation website.




IMG_2497At 1.2 miles there is relief from the blowdown wasteland as the trail moves back under forrest cover.  This is the segue into the second section of this trail, which is the wet foot section.  While the trail continues along a pleasant flat terrain, the first wet creek crossing occurs at 1.7 miles.  Rather than document all the crossings in the narrative, perhaps it is most efficient to list them. The majority of these are wet crossing meaning they do not have convenient placement of rocks or logs to cross without waking in the creek.

Creek Crossings on Beard Cane Creek:

1.7     1.9     1.9     2.3     2.4     2.5     2.6     2.6     2.7     2.7     2.9     2.9     3.0     3.0     3.1     3.5     4.2



The arrival at Campsite #3 is the sign that the wet crossing are through, unless you’re bound for a return trip.  Campsite #3, Hesse Creek is a very nice spot with space for a a few tents.  It is off the trail sufficiently and very little impact.    After crossing Hesse Creek, the trail ascends rather sharply toward Blair Gap and the intersection with Ace Gap Trail.

Intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane

Intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane

HikerHead 2   Shalom.  Strider out…

Abrams Creek Backpacking Trip

Date: 03.11.2016  – 03.12.2016   

Miles:  25.2              

Abrams Creek Backpacking TripAbrams Creek is an incredible section for hiking, if for no other reason than Abrams Creek itself.  The section is far enough from Cades Cove that you can avoid the typical crowds and if you want to catch the Falls, you have a spectacular approach from the bottom of the Creek rather than the traditional trailhead from the Cove.  Although there are no high top vistas, there are nice view of the ridges in the area and a plus is the fact that the climbing is fairly benign.  The trailhead is at Abrams Campground, which was still closed for the season.  It is a primitive campground in that there are no facilities for campers needing electricity and water.  It’s tents only.  The area is a favorite among horseback riders.

For the 900 miler, there is quite a bit of out-and-back hiking to make the loop.  In this case, Cane Creek is an unavoidable roundtrip as was Beard Cane in this particular route.  Added to that is the Gold Mine Trail and a mile of Cooper Road at the trailhead, resulting in a total of 9.3 miles of repeated hiking.  Here is the route for this trip:

  • Trailhead:  Cooper Road Trail at Abrams Creek Campground.
  • Cooper Road Trail to Goldmine Road Trail              2.6 m
  • Goldmine Road Trail to Trailhead and return         1.6 m
  • Cooper Road to Cane Creek Trail                                0.6 m
  • Cane Creek Trail to end and return                            4.2 m
  • Cooper Road Trail to Beard Cane                                 1.8 m
  • Beard Cane to Blair Gap and return                           8.4 m
  • Camp at CS#3
  • Hatcher Mountain Trail to Little Bottoms Trail     2.6 m
  • Little Bottoms Trail to Cooper Road Trail                 2.3 m
  • Cooper Road Trail to trailhead                                     0.9 m

As for documenting the trails, it was a bit challenging in that the route had three offshoots from Cooper Road Trail dividing it into three distinct sections.  There are 4 campsites in this section; # 1, 2, 3 and 17.  There is ample water throughout the section.

IMG_2474My base pack weight for this hike was 16 lbs. and total weight as 22 lbs.  I got started at about 9:00 am on a cloudy day heading down Cooper Road Trail.  The hike starts out typically as a double track jeep road along Abrams Creek.  I passed a couple fisherman.  There are a couple creek crossings in the first mile. Campsite #1 is just past the trail junction with Little Bottoms Trail at 1 mile.  For a campsite so close to a trailhead, the site is only lightly impacted.  I met a 74 year old day hiker and we exchanged a few hiking stories.  At 2.6 miles you reach Goldmine Gap and the Goldmine Road Trail leading to the park boundary.  The trailhead is in a small neighborhood and is rather obscure as there is no marking for the trail.  Upon completing the 32 minute roundtrip to the trailhead of the Goldmine Road Trail, I continued on Copper Road to Cane Gap.



IMG_2488Cane Creek Trail intersects at .6 miles up from the Goldmine Road trail.  There is a stream crossing just ahead of Campsite #2, a nice little site although one would do well to watch for widow makers in some of the dead pine trees.  I stashed my pack up the bear cables and move on to the end of Cane Creek Trail.  Just past the campsite, there is a wet stream crossing.  There is a small cemetery about 1.6 miles accounting for the fairly wide trail.  There are a number of Buchannans buried there dating back to the early 1900’s.  At about 1.8 miles, there is the third wet stream crossing before the end of the trail at 2.1 miles in.  It is a bit of a shame there is no connector with Beard Cane along the park boundary.  The sun popped out on the return trip to CS#2 for a bite of lunch.

At 1:15, I was back out at Cooper Road headed for Beard Cane.  The temperature rose to 78 degrees.  Cooper Road ascend a bit to top out on a ridge for a half mile.  Toward Beard Cane Trail, the foliage opens up as a result of the windstorms that devastated many of the trees in this area.  I use the voice recorder on my phone to capture voice notes and sometimes I forget to turn it off before it goes back in my pocket.  So I captured about 17 minutes of hiking with my phone recording the sounds from my pocket.  In a weird sense, it sounded very much like a heartbeat and blood flowing through the circulatory system.  I cleared this last bit of the Cooper Road trail, 1.8 miles in 33 minutes and headed down the Beard Cane Trail.


The Campsite formerly known as #11. The sign post is all that remains.

The severe wind devastation begins about a half mile in.  My original plan was to stash the pack and camp at CS#11 which was about a mile in.  Upon getting there, I found the post announcing the site but there is no site to be found.  There are blow downs everywhere.  The site is still listed on the Park Service Backcountry website but it does not allow reservations.  This section of Beard Cane is disappointing on the one hand but also pretty amazing in the fact that the Park Service managed to clear this tangled mass of blow downs so it can be traversed.  Now we get to watch how creation re-invents itself after a traumatic event.  The trail is muddy and swampy in places but for the most part, the briars and undergrowth are cut sufficiently back.  My memory of this section from the last time was a very long stretch over several wet creek crossings but to my pleasant surprise, the blow down section ends after only a 3/4 mile or so.  The balance of the trail is fairly level but there are several creek crossings that will involve wet feet.  CS#3 is 3.7 miles in.  I stashed the pack and finished the section at Blair Gap and returned to CS#3.




Home Sweet Hammock

Home Sweet Hammock

My evening at CS#3 was pleasant and lonely.  The site is on Beard Cane Creek itself and I was sung to sleep with water music.  The next morning, I headed back the 3.7 miles to Hatcher Mountain Trail. I have already hiked Hatcher Mountain on my previous Cooper Road – Abrams Fall Trail loop but it was nice to see it again as there are wonderful views of the Abrams Creek through pine forests and the hiking is generally downhill.

By 9:33, I started down Little Bottoms Trail which rolls up and down and it nears Abrams Creek.  Campsite #17 is 0.7 miles in.  It is a great site next to Abrams Creek.  There are plenty of open flat spots for tents and it is a place to remember for a short overnight creation fix.  There is no a lot of dead and down wood but there are few other signs of impact with low tree cover and pine needle carpet.  The trail continues along the creek nice and flat until about 1.5 miles where it ascend the ridge rather dramatically for a half mile or so where it descends steeply back to Cooper Road Trail.  After a rock-hop creek crossing and 56 minutes, Little Bottoms Trail was complete.  I hiked the 0.9 miles blackout to Abrams Creek Campground for some lunch.

The plan was to continue with the  lower section of Rabbit Creek and Hannah Mountain but that was going to add about 9 miles to the trip and I opted to do that another day.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider out…