Visitors should be aware of some recent trail openings and closings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail reopens just as Alum Cave Trail closes on weekdays until November 19, 2015 for needed restoration work.
One of eight new bridges on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a unique 5.5 mile, one-way road through a very beautiful slice of the National Park and provides access to several trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte and LeConte Lodge. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail leads you into a majestic, natural sanctuary just three miles from downtown Gatlinburg.
Directions to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
At traffic light #8 on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail-Airport Road. Keep right past the turnoff to the left to the Park Vista Hotel and enter the National Park on Cherokee Orchard Road. You’ll pass the Noah “Bud” Ogle Self-Guiding Nature Trail. Go another half-mile to reach the entrance to the auto trail through the historic Roaring Fork Community.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Highlights
- Experience Forest Communities of Cove Hardwood, Pine-Oak and Old-Growth Hemlock.
- Visit Historic Farmsteads: Ephraim Bales Place and Alfred Reagan Place.
- See “Place of a Thousand Drips” Waterfall.
- Rainbow Falls Trail and Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls.
- Note: Large motor homes, buses and trailer are prohibited.
Alum Cave Trail will be open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as the Trails Forever Crew work during the week to restore several locations along the five-mile trail.
The summit of Mt. LeConte, LeConte Lodge, and the LeConte Shelter can still reached by hiking one of five other trails, three of which are accessed via Cherokee Orchard Road which leads to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Rainbow Falls Trail – 6.6 miles from the Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Rainbow Falls is 2.7 miles from the trailhead.
Trillium Gap Trail – 8.7 miles from Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Grotto Falls is 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
The Boulevard Trail via The Appalachian Trail – From Newfound Gap hike north on the Appalachian Trail for 2.7 miles, then hike 5.3 miles on the Boulevard Trail to the summit of Mt. LeConte.
Bull Head Trail – Accessed via Old Sugarlands Trail near the Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road. Walk .4 miles on Old Sugarlands Trail to Bullhead Trail. Then walk 6.4 miles to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Many folks hike up to Mt. LeConte on Rainbow Falls Trail and return on Bull Head Trail for a nice loop walk.
Brushy Mountain Trail via Porters Creek Trail – Porters Creek Trail begins in the Greenbrier section of the National Park located off U.S. Highway 321 about six miles east of Gatlinburg. Travel approximately 4.1 miles down Greenbrier Road to a traffic loop with a gate and trail sign. Walk 1 mile on Porters Creek Trail, then 4.5 miles to the intersection with Trillium Gap Trail with the summit of Mt. LeConte in another 3.6 miles.
Parking is limited at all of these trailheads so carpooling is greatly encouraged.
For more information about the restoration project for Alum Cave Trail visit www.nps.gov.