Charlies Bunion, Newfound Gap Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Charlies Bunion - 7.8 Miles
Newfound Gap Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||7.8 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,054' - 5,565' (6,014' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+511' net elevation gain (+1,625' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Charlies Bunion (5,565') is located 3.9 miles from Newfound Gap along the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 'Bunion', widely considered one of the best viewpoints in all the Smokies, is a massive rock promontory surrounded by 1,000'+ vertical drops on three sides.
The outcrop formed in 1925 after a fire and subsequent rains stripped the rock of its tree cover and organic material, never to replenish. Visitors will enjoy high-country ecotones and exhilarating vistas on the hike to Charlies Bunion:
The AT rises over Newfound Gap along the North Carolina - Tennessee border on a rocky, rooted path. Note the absence of hardwoods as you progress through this high-elevation pine-oak forest. The trail crests at 1.5 miles and drops to the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail split (1.65 miles : 5,815').
Grades moderate past 2.0 miles and cross 6,000' (2.2 miles) through columns of red spruce and fraser fir to the Boulevard Trail split, and the route's highest point (2.65 miles : 6,014').
The Appalachian Trail continues NE to Icewater Spring Backcountry Shelter (2.9 miles : 5,954') and Icewater Spring, which spills from a pipe directly on the trail (2.95 miles : 5,929'). The shelter is large and well built, but its location on the AT and proximity to Newfound Gap mean it's often crowded.
The trail drops steeply and moderates once again past 3.5 miles on exposed ridges to the spur for Charlie's Bunion (3.85 miles : 5,530'). The spur climbs ruggedly out onto the exposed rock promontory (3.9 miles : 5,565') with wide ranging panoramas to the north and east. Lighting is generally best late afternoon, but morning travelers will enjoy terrific illuminations of Mount Le Conte (6,593') to the west, the Park's third highest peak.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N35 36.659 W83 25.480 — 0.0 miles : Newfound Gap Trailhead
- N35 36.840 W83 25.121 — .5 miles : Rocky, rooted climb on the Appalachian Trail
- N35 37.064 W83 24.742 — 1.0 miles : High, thin ridge with partial views
- N35 37.273 W83 24.231 — 1.65 miles : Sweat Heifer Creek Trail split
- N35 37.324 W83 23.858 — 2.0 miles : Moderate grades on variously rocky trail
- N35 37.705 W83 23.438 — 2.65 miles : Boulevard Trail split
- N35 37.800 W83 23.193 — 2.9 miles : Icewater Backcountry Shelter
- N35 37.817 W83 23.187 — 2.95 miles : Icewater Spring
- N35 37.920 W83 23.182 — 3.1 miles : Undulating travel on high, open ridges
- N35 38.209 W83 22.605 — 3.85 miles : Charlies Bunion access spur
- Extreme caution is necessary when scrambling about Charlies Bunion. There's no room for error along these drop offs. Keep a safe distance from cliff edges. Not recommended for families, or those uncomfortable with heights. Leave exposed areas well before storms approach, and avoid scrambling on wet rock at all times.
- Origin: "Charlies Bunion got its name in 1929 when Swain County native Charlie Conner was hiking with outdoorsman Horace Kephart, photographer George Masa, and others along the high divide. When they paused for a rest on the rocks, Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion or two that rivaled the surrounding stones. Eying Conner's feet, Kephart remarked, 'Charlie, I'm going to get this place put on a government map for you.' And he did". (Smoky Mountain news - Wednesday, 27 July 2011 - George Ellison)
- Charlies Bunion was previously known as Fodderstack.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit for all backcountry camping in the Park. Backcountry permits are free and available at 14 visitor centers, campgrounds, and park office locations.
- Permit registration facilities are open 24 hours a day. Permits must be picked up in the park at designated locations. They are not available on the internet or through email.
- The Icewater Spring Shelter is located 2.9 miles from Newfound Gap Trailhead on the Appalachian Trail.
- Advance reservations are required to camp at all Shelters and Backcountry Campsites 9, 10, 13, 17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 29, 36, 37, 38, 46, 47, 50, 55, 57, 60, 61, 71, 83, 86, 90, 113.
- Reservations for backcountry campsites may be obtained only by calling the Backcountry Office (865.436.1231). They are not available online or through email.
- If you do not plan to camp at a shelter or reserved campsite, then you only need to complete a permit.
- There is a 3 consecutive night stay maximum at any given campsite, and 1 night maximum at any shelter. The use of tents at shelters is prohibited. The maximum group size is 8 persons for sites and shelters.
- Open fires are prohibited except at designated sites and in established fire rings.
- All food and trash must be suspended at least 10' off the ground and 4' from the nearest limb or trunk, or stored as otherwise designated (e.g. bear box).
- The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily.
- 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.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
The Newfound Gap Trailhead is located 12.7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trailhead is located on the east side of the road.
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)