Trail: Rich Mountain Trail
Surface: Forest Trails
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 4-5 hours
Foot Traffic: Few Hikers
Restrooms: Camping Areas and Cades Cove Visitor Center
Highlights: Scenic Views of Cades Cove, Wildflowers, Historic Building, Fall Colors, Cascading Water
Rich Mountain Trail Trailhead
The National Park Service built an information kiosk at the entrance to Cades Cove. It is really a covered pavilion, and more often than not, someone is there to answer questions and provide helpful information for park visitors. Ample parking is provided for guests, and this is where you should park when hiking Rich Mountain Trail.
The entrance gate to Cades Cove is just a few feet past the parking lot and the Rich Mountain Trail trailhead is immediately to the right after you pass through the gate.
IMPORTANT: The road through Cades Cove is one way. After you pass through the entrance gate, the quickest way out is to continue driving for one mile and turn left onto Sparks Lane. Then drive another mile and turn left onto Cades Cove Loop Road. Finally, drive another 1.7 miles to exit onto Laurel Creek Road.
Rich Mountain Trail Description
The Rich Mountain Trail is worn forest floor. Expect roots, rocks, and other forest debris as you would on any other forest trail. The Cades Cove Riding Stables are across the street from the trailhead, and you might see horses on the Rich Mountain Trail. You may see horse droppings as well; so watch your step.
A half mile into your hike you will come to the first fork where you may diverge onto Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. Stay left to continue on Rich Mountain Trail. Another mile into the hike and you can visit the John Oliver Cabin.
Expect quite a few tourists to be in this popular area. Return to the trail for the solitude.
Speaking of solitude, for the most part, you won’t find it in Cades Cove. It is the most visited area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hosting two million people each year.
One of the best views of Cades Cove can be experienced from Rich Mountain, but few hikers take advantage of the trail.
This is a great trail near a wonderful attraction, but you won’t see many other hikers. Solitude is abundant on this trail. Views of the valley, amazing wildflowers, deer, and wild turkeys, can be expected on the Rich Mountain Trail.
From Rich Mountain Loop Trail, turn onto Indian Grave Gap Trail and then Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. This will take you back to the trailhead at the Cades Cove entrance.