Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls

The trip to Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant walk through hemlock and rhododendron forest. A signed side trail leads to the base of the falls by way of steep switchbacks. Hen Wallow Creek, only two feet wide at the top of the falls, fans out to 20 feet at the base. The waterfall is … Continue reading Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls

Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate Distance: 4.2 miles round trip Highlights: gorgeous creek views, Midnight Hole, Mouse Creek Falls, history If you’re on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, the hike to Mouse Creek Falls is short, but sweet, and has something to offer year-round. In the summer, this trail offers plenty of opportunities for … Continue reading Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls

Mt. Sterling Hike


Atop Mt. Sterling (5,842 ft elevation) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the historic, 60 ft. steel fire lookout tower built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This is the highest elevation of any fire tower remaining in the eastern USA. From the top of the Mt. Sterling Tower, you overlook Cataloochee Valley, the Pigeon River Gorge, the Unaka Mountains, the main ridge of the Smokies, the Black Mountains (east), and the end of the Southern Appalachians.

The 2.5 mile hike (5 mi round trip) from Sterling Gap is an easy jeep trail with a hike difficulty Rating of 9.60 (moderate) due to the 1953 feet in elevation. At 1/2 mile up the trail, the Long Bunk Trail intersects. Continue climbing for two miles until you reach the ridgeline. At roughly 2.3 miles you’ll reach the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail junction. Turn right on the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail and the Tower will be about 4/10 mile on the right. There are no views from the base of the tower at 5842 feet! You will need to climb to enjoy the panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Back Country Campsite #38 is at the base of the tower. Water is 1/4 mile down the Baxter Creek Trail on the left. You could even spend the night in the small cab atop the tower. Mt. Sterling was known as the Devil’s Bedchamber to early Cherokee hunters.

Since the beautiful Cataloochee Valley is nearby, you will definitely see elk, the historic structures and more hiking trails there. Another tower is located on neighboring Mt. Cammerer.

There are several routes that will take you to the summit of Mt. Sterling. The shortest route to the fire tower is via the Mount Sterling Trail from Mount Sterling Gap.

The Mt. Sterling area is one of the more historic places in the Great Smoky Mountains. According to the early settlers in the area, the mountain was given its name after a two-foot wide streak of lead was found in the bed of the Pigeon River, near the northeastern base of the mountain. Unfortunately those residents mistakenly thought they had found silver.

One of the most famous stories associated with the area occurred during the Civil War. Towards the end of the war the remote valleys around the base of Mt. Sterling became popular hideouts for deserters from both sides of the war. Both Northern and Southern troop detachments would make frequent raids into the area to find and capture these fugitives.

Directions: Take exit 20 from I-40 and go west on U.S. Highway 276. Take the first right on Cove Creek Road and drive 15.7 miles. All but a few miles of this road is unpaved, curvy and bumpy. So allow plenty of driving time. At about 7.5 miles, you will see the turn-off to Cataloochee Valley. Continue straight to Mt. Sterling, following signs for Crosby.

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Andrews Bald Hike, Great Smoky Mountains

Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains has an elevation of 5,920 feet, making it the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountain is one of two grassy balds maintained in the range by the park service. The other is Gregory Bald, in the western Smokies. The hike is about … Continue reading Andrews Bald Hike, Great Smoky Mountains

Looking Glass Rock Hike

The Looking Glass Rock Trail climbs about 1,700 ft. in just over three miles (6.5 miles round-trip, allow 4 hours). The many switchbacks along the way help make for a long and moderately difficult climb. A strong hiker can make it to the top in 1.5 hours and down in one hour. The views from … Continue reading Looking Glass Rock Hike