Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hike Review #2: Charlie’s Bunion, GSMNP Tennessee/NC

Name: Charlie’s Bunion

Location: Located at the Newfound Gap parking lot at about the midway point of where Hwy 441 cuts through GSMNP. 20 mi from Cherokee, NC and 15 mi from Gatlinburg, TN.

Distance: 8.1 miles out-and-back

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately Difficult. There are moderate climbs on both the intial 2 miles and on the first return mile. In between these climbs, the trail is relatively flat with gradual climbs and some steady descents. Total elevation gain is 1640 feet. I might have given this a 6, but because the terrain is pretty rocky, a 7 is appropriate.

Features: 8/10 Excellent You are rewarded throughout this hike with panoramic views to the North and South. The pine trees emit a very strong, sometimes pungent smell. It is quite refreshing to be at this elevation (6122 ft!) with the fresh air and smells. In the Spring there are wildflowers. I saw a few birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and a mouse. This hike utilizes the infamous Appalachian Trail (AT). 

Here is how it got it’s name: Charlies Bunion is a rock out-cropping that was originally known as Fodderstack. The current name was derived when Charlie Conner went hiking one day with Horace Kephart, one of the early proponents of a national park in the Smokies, and author of Our Southern Highlanders. When they paused for a rest on the rocks Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion that looked like the surrounding rocks. Looking at Conner’s feet, Kephart remarked, “Charlie, I’m going to get this place put on a government map for you.” And so he did. (Taken from

Solitude: 4/10 Poor Unless you get up early you will not avoid the crowds that swarm Newfound Gap, probably the most crowded stop in the entire GSMNP. I was on the trail by 7:30 am and I had the trail all to myself. I arrived at the peak at 9:10am and there was 1 other hiker already there. However, on the return I passed at least 20 other hikers. Anytime after 10:00 am, there is rare solitude here. Plus, there is the Icewater Spring Shelter…a popular stopover for backpackers on the AT.

Overall Experience: 7/10  Very Good I have hiked this trail 3 other times and it used to be a favorite of mine in the park. However, because it has become so crowded, it is hard to get the solitude I enjoy when on a  hike. Nevertheless, the views are amazing and the fresh coniferous air makes it a nice hike. I probably would give this hike an 8 or 9, but with the overuse of the trail comes trash. There were at least 6 incidents of trash along the trail.



Hike Review #1: Smokemont Loop, GSMNP North Carolina

Of course one of the best parts about this lifestyle is I get to pursue one of my great passions: hiking! So, I am going to keep a log of my hikes. Hopefully after a few years of this I will have a nice collection of hike reviews for my readers to take advantage of.

Name: Smokemont Loop Trail

Location: Hike begins and ends in Smokemont Campground which is located 3.5 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in GSMNP outside of Cherokee, NC

Distance: 6.5 mile loop

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately difficult. Not recommended for young kids without hiking experience. The first half of the hike is easy, but there is a 2.5 mi section that has a very respectable climb. You are rewarded with a decent view.

Features: 7/10 Very Nice A good portion of the trail follows a very pleasant and sometimes swift stream. This is a great fishing stream. I witnessed one fly fisherman snag a nice trout! In addition to the stream, the flora is nice with hardwood forests, wildflowers, the longest foot bridge in GSMNP, and an old church to explore. The view from the top is a decent reward 3/4 seasons and probably spectacular in the winter.

Solitude: 9/10 Excellent Being that this hike starts and ends at a popular campground I expected to run into several other hikers…but I never saw a soul. It was a gorgeous day and the campground was busy, so I assume the somewhat difficult climb on this hike is a deterrent for the casual camper.

Overall Experience: 7/10 Very Good This hike is pleasant and challenging with decent aesthetics. Better views at the top would have bumped it to an 8.


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