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
Gabes Mountain - Snake Den Mountain Loop
|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)|
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.
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. Look for deer, turkey, grouse, and bear in this rich habitat. 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 on the loop.
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 stands of fir. The trail bends east up the west ridge of Maddron Bald and levels through a dramatic 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').
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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)