Smoky Mountain Trail: Little River Trail

Smoky mountain river flowing in autumn fall leaves nature

Little River Trail

Despite its name, Little River is quite large as it flows through a vast area of the Tennessee side of the Smokies, with branches extending from the highest ridges. Interesting fact: in the early 1920s gold was discovered in the river but the excitement was short-lived when it was determined that only $1.27 in gold could be obtained from each ton of crushed rock.

The journey along Little River begins at the locked gate and continues along a well-maintained gravel road that runs parallel to the river. For almost a mile, the road passes by empty Elkmont cabins, which were built before the park was established and had leases that lasted until 1992. The fate of these cabins is currently a topic of discussion. In mid-June, this area is renowned for its synchronized fireflies. Past the cabins, the trail leads into the forest and encounters large boulders. The damp rocks on the right side are home to mosses, walking ferns, and wildflowers.

At 1.3 miles there is a bench and big, deep, green pool. A little farther there is a second bench with a view of rapids on a curve of Little River. At 2.3 miles Cucumber Gap Trial merges with Little River Trail and is marked by a bench at the base of a big sycamore. Then the road crosses Little River on a walking bridge. The Huskey Gap Trail veers left at mile 2.7 and leads up to Sugarland Mountain Trail and then down to Newfound Gap Road.

Sycamore trees line the right side of Little River. After passing a bridge over Lost Creek at 3.7 miles, the trail divides. Choose Goshen Prong Trail to the right, leading to the Appalachian Trail after 7.7 miles and a 3,000′ elevation gain. Little River Trail turns left and crosses Rough Creek on its final bridge. The river fans out into multiple channels, with the trail crossing two on a rocky island. Look out for Campsite #24 on the right at 4.5 miles, located at an elevation of 2,860. Just beyond the campsite, the trail links up with Sugarland Mountain Trail, which can be combined with Huskey Gap Trail.