Tag Archives: Cooper Road Trail

Cooper Road Trail

Date:    02.26.2016, 03.11.2016 – 03.12.2016

Miles:  10.7 miles           Elevation Gain:  1150↑         Elev./Mi:   107.5        Grade:     2%          

Difficulty:  Class 2             

Section:  Cades Cove    

Cooper Road TrailCooper Road Trail presents a host of options for different loop hikes leading out of Cades Cove and Abrams Creek Campground as it intersects with 5 different trails and has two distinct trailheads.  As for hiking it is downright delightful in that it only climbs 1,100 feet over its 10.7 miles.  It is definitely one of the longer treks in the park if hiked one-way but that is the challenge.  It really doesn’t fit in a one way scenario, nor does it work as a simple loop.  For the 900 miler, it will end up being hiked in several sections over a few days. Such is the case here.  IMG_2272Cooper Road was a main thoroughfare servicing Cades Cove before the establishment of the Park and much of it enjoys wide double track and relatively well graded terrain as any former roadway or railroad bed.  In fact, Rich Mountain Road and Parsons Branch Road were similar in their day and the Park Service chose to maintain them as access roads.

There are a few access points.  The trailheads are at Cades Cove Road on the east end and Abrams Creek Campground on the west end with ample parking at both.  The third access point is via the Goldmine Road Trail about 2.6 miles from the Abrams Creek Trailhead.  Surprisingly, there is only one campsite directly on the trail, which is CS #1 about 1 mile in from Abrams Creek at the trail junction with Little Bottoms Trail.  CS #2 is reasonably close at 06. miles down Cane Creek Trail.

Cades Cove to Hatcher Mountain

Cooper Road #1The first section completed was part of a loop hike that included Abrams Falls.  The section started at the Cades Cove trailhead.  It was 39 degrees and overcast on the morning of Feb 26, 2016.  At 0.2 miles, the Wet Bottoms Trail intersects to complete a nice loop trail around IMG_2271Abrams Falls.  At 1.0 mile, the trail rises gradually and levels off to a nice rolling stroll.  A concrete bridge appears at 1.4 miles as the trail crosses Arbutus Branch.  A moderate climb continues to about 1.7 miles where views appear although on this day, the clouds robbed the hiker of any panoramic landscape.  The trail reaches a ridge at about 2.5 miles and continues fairly flat before a slight descent at 3.0 miles.  At 4.0 miles, you cross Stoney Brook in a rock hopper.  Two prongs of Wilsons Branch are encountered around 5.0 miles that are negotiated with some skillful rock hopping.  Following the two creek crossings, there is a bit of overgrown brush and briars that only last a few hundred yards or so.  There is some blow-down evidence in this area accompanied by some pine tree growth.  At 5.7 miles the trail intersects with Hatcher Mountain Trail and continues on to Cane Creek Trail which is 1.8 miles ahead.  For this hike, I left Cooper Road down Hatcher Mountain to make the Abrams Falls Loop.

Abrams Creek Campground to Goldmine Road Trail

Cooper Road #2Continuing on the trail description is going to be a bit tedious and out of sync as the next section was hiked starting at Abrams Creek Campground as part of a 2-day backpacking trip that occurred March 12-13, 2016.  The trailhead is at Abrams Creek Campground where there is good parking, even IMG_2474in the off-season when the campground is closed.  The trail begins at the back side of the campground and continues for the first mile or so along Abrams Creek.  The trail only ascends 250 ft. over this 2.6 mile section making the climb barely noticeable.  At 0.9 miles, the Little Bottoms Trail intersects from the right and Campsite #1 is just beyond.  It is fairly nice site, especially being so close to a trailhead.  By now the trail picks up and follows Kingfisher Creek for the next mile.  At 2.6 miles the trail intersects with the Goldmine Road Trail, which leads 0.8 miles to the Top Of The World Community on Chilhowee Mountain.

Goldmine Road to Cane Creek Trail

Cooper ROad 3From Goldmine Road, the friendly stroll continues almost flat to Cane Creek Trail in 0.6 miles.  Campsite #2 is about 0.6 miles down Cane Creek Trail.


Cane Creek to Beard Cane/Hatcher Mountain

Copper Road #4The first 1/4 mile from Cane Creek is the first indication that Cooper Road Trail climbs at all, climbing nearly 200 ft, which is 800 ft. per mile but it quickly levels out for more of the very gentle climb this trail has enjoyed from the trailhead.  This 1.8 mile section was complete in 32 minutes which is a 3.3 mph pace… with a backpack.  A testament to how level the trail is in this section.  The section ends at the intersection with Hatcher Mountain Trail and Bread Cane Trail. From here it is 5.7 miles back up to Cades Cove.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider Out…


Little Bottoms Trail

Date:    03.12.2016

Miles:  2.3 miles           Elevation Gain:  385↑         Elev./Mi:   167        Grade:     3%          

Difficulty:  Class 2      Hiking Time: 0:59       Pace:  2.3  mph         Avg. Temp.:   65        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Little Bottoms Trail  Little Bottoms Elevation

Abrams Creek on the descent of Little Bottoms Trail

Abrams Creek on the descent of Little Bottoms Trail

Little Bottoms Trail is a connector between Cooper Road Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail.  It provides a number of Loop Hike possibilities as it is close to the intersection of Abrams Falls Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail.  From Abrams Creek Campground, the hike to Abrams Falls via Cooper Road to Little Bottoms to Hatcher to Abrams Falls is 5.3 miles.  Campsites #1 and #17 are both nicely situated along this path.




Campsite #17

Campsite #17

Abrams Creek at CS#17

Abrams Creek at CS#17

From Hatcher Mountain Trail it descends almost in roller coaster fashion (short bursts of up and down) as it follows Abrams Creek on its wonderful journey to Abrams Creek Campground.  The trail is fairly narrow as its genesis was a manway or footpath.  The water music from the Abrams is easily heard in the background and keeps you merry company as you move ever closer.  At 0.7 miles you pass the very popular Campsite #17.  Its popularity stems in part by it’s close proximity to the Abrams Creek Campground and good parking, but its most endearing feature is Abrams Creek, which is just across the path.  This is a large site with many great tent spots and surprisingly low impact.  The site on this day was well maintained and clean.  Certainly a place to note for an peaceful overnighter with a concert to sing you to sleep.

The trail moves along relatively flat for the next mile or so as you hug the edge of Abrams Creek.  This is a bit of bait and switch.  At 1.6 miles the trail suddenly leave the Creek and head uphill at a surpassing rate until it crests on the ridge at about 2.0 miles, then it swoops back down to pick up the Cooper Road Trail at 2.3 miles.  Campsite #1 appears on your right as you reach the end, which is about 0.9 miles from Abrams Creek Campground.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider out…

Goldmine Road Trail

Date:    03.11.2016

Miles:  0.8 miles           Elevation Gain:  309↑         Elev./Mi:   386        Grade:     7%          

Difficulty:  Class 3      Hiking Time: 0:17       Pace:  3.1  mph         Avg. Temp.:   65        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Goldmine Trail Goldmine Elevation

IMG_2481The Goldmine Road Trail is merely an access trail to Goldmine Gap and the Cooper Road Trail.  The Brown Book describes its starting point as 2.5 miles up the Cooper Road Trail from Abrams Creek Campground, which is true.  The trail terminates at the Park Boundary, which is only a hundred yards or so from a residential street in the Top Of The World Community.  This community is accessible from the Foothills Parkway.  Flats Road intersects near the entrance of the Look Rock Campground and twists along through the Top Of The World Community.  Look for Joroulman Dr. on the right and take the first right after that onto Stiffener Circle.  The trail access is on the right just before a sharp curve to the left.  Look for a cabin with a red metal roof across the street.  There is no official parking area but the is some space on the side of the road.  Watch for horse trailers though.

From the Cooper Road Trail, Gold Mine trail ascends steadily the whole 0.8 miles.  The Brown Book has some interesting history about this old track but otherwise, there is nothing really remarkable about it other than a good access to Cooper Road and Cane Creek Trails.

Cabin near access to Gold Mine Trail

Cabin near access to Gold Mine Trail

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…

Abrams Falls Loop Hike

Date: 02.26.2016      

Miles:  12.7              Hiking Time: 4:26              Total Trip:  5:21

Route: Cooper Road Trail to Hatcher Mountain Trail to Abrams Falls Trail           

Abrams FallsBy now, I have documented a few hikes made up of sections of different trails, which presents a bit of a problem with keeping a detailed record of each trail.  A 900 miler accumulates a number of trail segments from different trails at any given time.  It’s pretty easy to keep up with on a spreadsheet.  With a blog though, it presents a dilemma of sorts.  Should you write up the hike with incomplete trail sections or wait until all sections are complete before documenting the hike.  With this post I will attempt a shift in strategy.  Whenever I hike hike a number of different segments, I will present the experience as the total hike and reserve specific details when each segment is completed.

And so this hike started out to be a loop around Abrams Falls.  The original path was to be Cooper Road to Hatcher Mountain to Hannah Mountain to Rabbit Creek and out.

IMG_2271At 10:39 on Friday, Feb. 26, I parked the 4Runner at the Cooper Road trailhead.  It was a brisk 39 degrees and overcast.  Traffic in Cades Cove was non-existent which made getting to the trailhead a pleasure.  The trail climbs gently for about 3 miles and crests as it heads down to Hatcher Mountain.  Toward the end of the section, there is significant blowdown activity with brushy new growth and small pine trees returning.  At about 5.3 miles, I came across a couple older 900 milers on their 3rd map.  We exchanged information about trail conditions and one mentioned this would probably be their last map.  I rebutted his statement saying that you always start the next map but they seemed to agree together that too many birthdays had passed and 3 would be plenty.  After 2 hours and 20 minutes I made it to the Hatcher Mountain Trail.


Hatcher Mountain breaks out with views across to Chilhowee Mountain and Look Rock.  The hike is steady and slightly downhill the whole way and very pleasant.  Once again, there are sections that suffered from significant wind damage with twisted blowdowns but the trail is clear and the openness makes way for some great views.  There was still snow on the peaks of the ridge.  At about 2 miles, you begin to hear Abrams Creek down in the gorge as it becomes visible through the open ridge.  The river music follows you all the way to the end of Hatcher Mountain Trail at the junction with Abrams Creek Trail.

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

The plan was to pick up Hannah Mountain Trail and continue on to Rabbit Creek Trail but upon arrival, you are met with an obstacle.  That being the fording of Abrams Creek.  Normally, the creek is no more than knee deep.  Conditions this day were as follows:  Temperature, low 40’s.  Water level: extremely high due to recent heavy rainfall.  Current VERY swift.  Total number in the group of hikers: one.  The thought of a waste deep ford through swift current induced me to reconsider my hiking plan.  To my great fortune, the Abrams Falls Trail also terminated at this Junction so discretion took the better part of valor and I headed back up toward Cades Cove on the Abrams Falls Trail.

For some time now, Abrams Creek accompanies you, providing a full choir of glorious river music all the way to the falls.  The trail gains about 600 feet over its 4 miles so the ascent is slight and gradual, making for a glorious walk all the way.  As the trail turns away from the creek and then returns back toward it, the magnificent sound seems change key like different movements of a symphony.  The rapids of Abrams Creek are always visible through the wintertime foliage.

IMG_2336At about 1.5 miles, through the trees, you finally see it.  The majestic Abrams Falls comes into view in all its glory and the reason for taking this unplanned route reveals itself in a wonderful surprise.  The flow of water over the falls is as full as I have ever seen it, spanning the full width of the falls without a single break in the swooping wall of water.  Excitement builds as you follow the sight for the next 300 yards.  Finally you come to the footbridge that leads you through a door  to the sacred place that is Abrams Falls.  As I entered the sanctuary, I was thrilled to see only a half dozen other pilgrims had made the trip.





IMG_2338  IMG_2362

IMG_2355Over the 45 minutes I spent at the falls, I was blessed with 20 minutes of solitude as the other visitors left for the trailhead.  The time was magic as all Creation performed its concert giving witness to the Creator in full glory.  When we are gifted with a glimpse of Heaven, we can only stay for a while before we must return to the domain of Man.  Such as it was with this visit and about 3:20 PM, I headed for the trailhead at Cades Cove.

The sun arrived during my moment in the sanctuary and it turned the day into perfection for the walk up.



Blessings tend to come when they are completely unexpected and today was exemplary of this fact.  Had I been able to stay with my original plan, I would have missed the falls in its full display of raw power and sound.  And yet, I would never have known.  This all makes one even the more thankful because the gift was precious and its giving was not anticipated.  This is the way of grace.

HikerHead 2  Be well.  Do good.  Strider out…