Gabes Mountain - Snake Den Mountain Loop, Cosby Campground - Gabes Mountain Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Gabes Mountain - Snake Den Mountain Loop - 17.75 miles

Cosby Campground - Gabes Mountain Trailhead

The Hen Wallow Falls Loop Trail leads deep into the Park's ecologically diverse backcountry

The Hen Wallow Falls Loop Trail leads deep into the Park's ecologically diverse backcountry

Round-Trip Length: 17.75 miles (.2 additional roundtrip miles to reach falls)
Start-End Elevation: 2,210' - 2,210' (5,405' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,195' net elevation gain (+4,215' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Gabes Mountain - Snake Den Mountain Loop - 17.75 Miles Round-Trip

The Cosby Campground - Gabes Mountain Trailhead is located 21 miles east of Gatlinburg, TN in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It provides access to Hen Wallow Falls and a network of trails that lead through deep coves, high ridges and remote old growth forests.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Gabes Mountain, Maddron Bald, and Snake Den Ridge Trail form a long, challenging route highlighted by Hen Wallow Falls, Cove Hardwood Forests on the Albright Grove Loop and the ecologically curious summit of Maddron Bald. Visitors will enjoy a variety of ecotones and light traffic on this lengthy hike through the Smokies backcountry:

The Gabes Mountain Trail begins with a steady climb in a damp hemlock and hardwood forest. It gradually roughens on a shifting and heavily rooted path that gains 500' on the first mile. Note subtle changes in forest composition as you progress into a drier forest past 1.0 mile (2,710').

You'll reach the spur for Hen Wallow Falls at 1.8 miles (2,935'), a worthwhile excursion if time permits. Hen Wallow Falls, only 2' wide at the top, fan out 20' across along its 90' drop down Hen Wallow Creek.

Trail conditions improve past the falls on a methodical climb into the mountains. Grades moderate considerably past 2.95 miles (3,267') on a long, winding stretch around several coves and ravines.

Mild grades with a net descent run quickly under towering hardwoods and hemlock to Greenbrier Creek, just over which is Backcountry Campsite #34 (4.4 miles : 3,087').

A short climb over Site #34 crests and begins another long, winding descent to the Maddron Bald Trail junction (6.5 miles : 2,460'). Turn left to continue clockwise travel.

The Maddron Bald Trail climbs steadily on wide packed gravel that gives way to a narrow, variously steep and rugged track past 7.2 miles (2,735'). You'll reach a scenic bridge over Indian Camp Creek, whose open sunlit banks invite a short respite (8.15 miles : 3,040').

A steep climb over the creek leads to the Albright Grove Loop Trail (8.25 miles : 3,165'), which circles a remarkable swath of old growth forest and rejoins the main trail at 8.85 miles (3,343').

Cove Hardwood Forests feature up to 30 canopy tree species and dozens of flowering shrubs and perennials. Primary constituents include silver bell, yellow poplar, basswood, sugar maple, buckeye, beech, and hemlock. Hickory, red maple, and various oak may also be found. Magnolia, dogwood, beech, holly, laurel and rhododendron fill out the understory.

The Maddron Bald Trail steepens past the second Albright Gove Loop connection on a lightly used, minimally maintained path. Anticipate several unaided stream crossings on this remote stretch. Grades moderate past 9.7 miles in the transition zone between hardwood and pine - oak communities (4,145').

You'll cross Otter Creek to Backcountry Campsite #29, which sits on a high bank (10.85 miles : 4,552'). A strenuous climb over Otter Creek leads to a hairpin turn at 11.7 miles (4,910'), where the forest abruptly introduces dense bands of fir. The trail bends east up the west ridge of Maddron Bald and levels through an opening on the summit with panoramic views to the south (12.4 miles : 5,205').

Maddron Bald is a heath bald, defined as a treeless area in mid - high elevations with distinct plant communities. Heath balds are primarily comprised of mountain laurel, sand myrtle, rhododendron, blueberry and huckleberry. Heath balds in the Smokies are usually attributed to rocky, shallow, and acidic soil beds that are inhospitable to most tree species, but tolerated by low-lying shrubs with more versatile root systems.

The trail re-enters timber and rises sharply through pine, oak, and fir to the Snake Den Ridge Trail split, the loop's highest point (12.85 miles : 5,414'). Here it tilts downhill on a 4.4 mile, knee-jarring descent to the Cosby Campground. Note the rapid transition through distinct ecological communities along the way (from spruce-fir to pine-oak to hardwoods and hemlock).

You'll pass through notably tall hardwood groves between 14-15 miles, and cross Inadu Creek at 15.4 miles (3,513'). The grade finally moderates past the bridge over Little Rock Creek (16.45 miles : 2,824') to an unmarked gravel road (16.5 miles : 2,761'). Note that many Park maps are not granular enough to illustrate this road.

Head downhill on the road .75 miles past an historic cemetery to the official end of the Snake Den Ridge Trail in the Cosby Campground (17.25 miles : 2,432'). Follow paved roads through the campground back to the Gabes Mountain Trailhead (17.75 miles : 2,210').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N35 45.473 W83 12.582 — 0.0 miles : Gabes Mountain Trailhead
  • N35 45.329  W83 13.103 — .5 miles : Steep climb in damp lower forest
  • N35 45.350  W83 13.594 — 1.0 miles : Grades moderate in drier forest
  • N35 45.608  W83 14.192 — 1.8 miles : Hen Wallow Falls Trail split
  • N35 45.349 W83 14.511 — 2.95 miles : Grades moderate on better trail conditions
  • N35 44.971 W83 15.223 — 4.4 miles : Cross Greenbrier Creek to Campsite #34
  • N35 45.334 W83 16.298 — 6.5 miles : Maddron Bald Trail junction
  • N35 44.247  W83 16.787 — 8.25 miles : Cross bridge to Albright Grove Loop
  • N35 44.105 W83 16.545 — 8.85 miles : Complete Grove Loop - rejoin trail
  • N35 43.772 W83 15.206 — 10.85 miles : Backcountry Campsite #29
  • N35 44.044  W83 15.208 — 12.4 miles : Trail crests on Maddron Bald
  • N35 43.933 W83 14.770 — 12.85 miles : Snake Den Ridge Trail - begin descent
  • N35 44.518  W83 13.645 — 15.4 miles : Cross Inadu Creek and resume descent
  • N35 44.746   W83 12.965 — 16.45 miles : Cross bridge over Little Rock Creek
  • N35 44.865 W83 12.914 — 16.5 miles : Reach gravel road - continue down
  • N35 45.185 W83 12.621 — 17.25 miles : Gravel road ends in Cosby Campground
  • N35 45.473  W83 12.582 — 17.75 miles : Complete loop at Gabes Mountain Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • While many old growth forests in southern Appalachia have been felled by loggers, remote and largely inaccessible ones such as those found on the slopes of Greenbrier Pinnacle (featured on the Albright Grove Loop) have remained untouched.

  • Cove Hardwood Forests are considered the most diverse hardwood forest type in North America. Cove Hardwood Forests are found at 3,000' - 4,500' in heavily watered, west-facing valleys with rich soil beds.
  • .

  • Maddron Bald is a Heath Bald. Balds are treeless tracts of thick, tangled shrubs located at mid to high elevations. Primary constituents include mountain laurel, rhododendron, blueberry, huckleberry and sand myrtle. Balds are sometimes called 'Laurel Slicks' because of their waxy, shiny appearance.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Campsites #34 and #29 are located 4.2 miles and 9.6 miles from the Gabes Mountain Trailhead on the loop as described above, respectively.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.

Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here:

Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.

Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.

General Backcountry Regulations

1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.

2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.

3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.

4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.

5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.

6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.

7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.

8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.

9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.

10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.

11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.

12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.

13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.

14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.

15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.

16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.

17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park

18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.

  • The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.

  • A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.

  • Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.

  • Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.

  • Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.

Rules and Regulations

  • There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  • Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.

  • Horses are not permitted on the Hen Wallow Falls Loop as described above. Horses are permitted on the Snake Den Ridge Trail.

  • Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.

Directions to Trailhead

The Cosby Campground - Gabes Mountain Trailhead is located 21 miles from Traffic Light #3 in Gatlinburg TN.

From Gatlinburg, take Highway 321-73 North 17.8 miles to the turn for Cosby Camp - Highway 32. Turn right toward Cosby Camp. Drive 1.2 miles and veer right onto Cosby Park Road. Continue 2.0 miles to the Gabes Mountain Trailhead parking lot on the left. The trailhead parking area is large but not marked.

The Gabes Mountain Trailhead is located across the street, just before the turnoff into the lot.

Contact Information

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Visitor Information - Recorded Message

Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)

Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)

Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)

Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"What about the water sources at the campsites? Are they good and are they convenient? "
Nate Hornback  -  OH  -  Date Posted: April 23, 2018
"This was my first hike. I used molle, braught a large amount of everything useful, and had a total group of 5. I used a weight carying type vest for quick access to things, and extra protection. My experience was that there is a mother bear very near to a 29, the water crossing are very, very fequent for my taste, the last 3 miles to campsite A29 was the absolute worst part, and a29 had some rocky ground to sleep on that was painful for most of my group. It gets very cold at night, phones get signal near the top, and the views around snake den were amazing."
Thomas Folan  -  Currently chicago  -  Date Posted: April 4, 2018


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