Smokemont Loop Trail, Bradley Fork Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Smokemont Loop Trail - 6.1 Miles
Bradley Fork Trailhead
Smokemont Loop Trail
|Round-Trip Length:||6.1 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||2,400' - 2,400' (3,510' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,110' net elevation gain|
The Bradley Fork Trail and Smokemont Loop Trail form an ecologically varied loop highlighted by miles of riverside travel, historic remains and tall hardwood forests.
The Smokemont Loop begins and ends on different sides of the Bradley Fork Campground parking lot. The parking lot is 1-mile wide, so parking in the middle is recommended.
The following description begins on the Bradley Fork Trail and travels counter-clockwise on the loop:
The Bradley Fork Trail begins on the far north end of the campground. The first 1.2 miles follow a wide, flat path beside the Bradley Fork of the Oconaluftee River. Keep left of Campsite #50 (1.0 mile), and left again at the Chasteen Creek Trail split (1.2 miles).
At 1.7 miles you'll cross one of the longest footbridges in the Park and begin travel on the Smokemont Loop Trail. Tread carefully and use handrails on this long and bouncy bridge. Once over, the trail curls southeast into a low, perennially wet area known for wildflowers including the Fingered Phacelia, Indian Pipe, and Crested Dwarf.
The trail enters thick forest and gains 850' in just a mile on switchbacks up Richland Mountain. Look for maple, dogwood, and poplar as you progress. Be mindful of bears in this food-rich habitat. Take in sweeping from the saddle of Richland Mountain before dropping back downhill (3.5 miles).
The historic Bradley Cemetery is located just at 5 miles on the right side of the trail. This cemetery was used by the Bradley Family and locals from the late 1800s to 1925, and has 30-50 graves, many of which are unmarked.
The trail dead-ends into a service road just past Bradley Cemetery. Turn left on this road (there is no trail marker) and continue a few hundred yards to the campground (5.35 miles).
- The Bradley Fork and Smokemont Loop trails combine for 5.1 miles, but travel through the parking lot adds an additional mile.
- The Bradley Fork Trail sees heavy use from campers, anglers, and equestrians aiming for the nearby Tow String. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
- Campsite #50 is quite popular, and requires a reservation for anyone planning an overnight stay. Contact Backcountry Reservations at the number below for information.
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.
- 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 Smokemont Loop Trail begins at the Bradley Fork Trailhead within the Bradley Fork campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC, travel 5 miles north on Hwy 441 and turn into Smokemont Campground.
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)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)