Finley Cane Trail
The hike on the Finley Cane Trail is a breeze. It is commonly used as a starting point to reach Spence Field through the Bote Mountain Trail. On the left, you’ll find the rocky path of the Finley Cane Trail. It runs parallel to the road for a short distance, heading east or downhill. As you begin, you’ll immediately be greeted by a beautiful tunnel of Rosebay Rhododendron and Fraser Magnolias. These trees will line the first half of the trail. After passing a majestic American Beech tree, you’ll veer away from the road and cross Sugar Cove Creek. Don’t worry, it’s an easy rock hop when the water is low.
To reach the trail head you must travel west on the Laurel Creek Road, 5.75 miles towards Cades Cove from the Townsend “Y”. The parking area serves 3 trails, Finley Cane, Lead Cove, on the south side and Turkey Pen Ridge on the north side of the road.
You will begin the climb along the north flank of Bote Mountain. During June and July you will run into a tunnel of rhododendron, which will open and close for more than 0.5 mile. The tunnel is a wonderful place to be on those hot days. The large white flower clusters are some of the most beautiful in the park.
After you rock hop the Laurel Cove Creek and Hickory Tree Branch within 200′ of each other, the rhododendron will give away to the hardwood forest. At 2.5 miles you will pass right between 2 gorgeous pillars, each 2′ in diameter. These majestic columns are draped with purple red grape vines-a magnificent sight.
Throughout the hike you have been slowly rising and falling. On the mountainside, the trail has been dry and smooth. But occasional spring branches cross the path. They run almost imperceptibly, yet the continual flow leaves the trail muddy in places. This mix of wet and dry provides you with a diversity of more than just salamanders to view. Mushrooms are yet plentiful here. Count the different varieties you see, but do not expect to see them all. Park researches estimate over 2,000 species exists here.
The last mile of the trail climbs from a dry crossing of Finley Cove Creek to Bote Mountain Trail. Along the trail it will be rocky in places, so watch your footing. When you reach Bote Mountain you have many choices. You may want to continue to Spence Field, West Prong Trail or a third choice may be to combine Finley Cane, Bote Mountain, and Lead Cove into a 7.1 mile round trip journey, this is a strenuous hike.