Smoky Mountain Trail: Turkeypen Ridge Trail

Smoky mountain car road trail in fall autumn yellow golden trees scenic

Turkeypen Ridge Trail – 3.6 miles from Schoolhouse Gap Trail to Laurel Creek Road

Highlights: The level in and out weaving of the trail along the eastern face of Turkey Ridge.

Trailhead: Junction with Schoolhouse Gap Trial 1.1 miles from Laurel Creek Road or Laurel Creek Road 5.5 miles west of the Townsend Y.

There are two likely starting points for this path. One is across from the trailhead of the Lead Cove and Finely Cane trails, 5.5 miles west of the Townsend Y on the Laurel Creek Road. The nearer one is at the start of the Schoolhouse Gap trail 3.5 miles west of the Townsend Y on the Laurel Creek Road. This description is form the Schoolhouse Gap Trial Junction.

After walking northwest 1.1 mile on the gentle grade of Schoolhouse Gap Trail, the Turkeypen Ridge Trail appears on the left at Dorsey Gap. This gap has no marker but was named for Anderson Dorsey, a Civil War veteran who farmed some of the old fields beyond the gap to the west of the trail.

This popular path is convenient to get to and easy to walk. After the gap, the trail passes through a thicket of rhododendron, then ascends on occasion.

Before reaching the top of the ridge, if you’re lucky enough to pass when azaleas are in bloom, there are several, quite small, flame azaleas with blood red blooms. Among other flowers along this trail are galax, wood-vetch, trillium and big patches of crested dwarf iris in the moist hollows.

The trail runs briefly along the top of a level ridge, northwest of which lies a large and unusual depression, know as Whiteoak Sink. No graded or officially maintained trail enters that area.

The path swings left and runs level, in and out around each descending spoke of the eastern face of Turkeypen Ridge. The path moves out and around the dry flank of each bulge then back into the cool, moist havens next to the heart of the mountain.

At the last crossing of Pinkroot Branch is a picturesque ledge, or outcropping of layered rock. It’s a moist and cool place to pause and relax and enjoy the quiet seclusion and enchantment.

The trail leaves the level area, passes through a small gap, and gradually descends and drops into the old fields of Big Spring Cove. Several small piles of rock can be seen from the path. Toward the bottom of the descent another branch of Laurel Creek is heard, then seen, to the right. Just before crossing the branch an old home site is to the right.

Two tenths of a mile before reaching the trail’s end at Laurel Creek Road, the Crib Gap Trail crosses and the sound of traffic soon creeps in to dissolve the quiet comfort of Turkeypen Ridge Trail.