Off the Beaten Path
Highlights: wildflower viewing, hiking trails
Cosby is an out-of-the-way area of the national park that is a favorite among locals and long-time Smokies visitors. Facilities include a campground that is almost never full and a picnic area that's spacious and never too crowded.
But the main draw for most people to the Cosby area is hiking. Hen Wallow Falls is a popular day hike, located just 2.1 miles from the Cosby Picnic Area. The 1.4 mile walk to Sutton Ridge Overlook offers spectacular views. It originates from the picnic area also.
For more ambitious hikers, the strenuous, 5.6 mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower is a Smoky Mountain classic. Or try the brutal but beautiful 13-mile Low Gap Trail - Appalachian Trail - Snake Den Trail loop.
Mileage to Cosby Campground:
Highlights: wildflowers, picnic areas, walking trails, fishing
In spring, the Greenbrier area of the park is renowned for its wildflowers. The drive to the Ramsey Cascades trailhead provides good wildflower viewing from your car, while the Porters Creek Trail makes a good wildflower walk.
To hike Porters Creek, follow the signs to the trailhead of the same name. Good displays of wildflowers can be seen along the first 1.5 miles of trail. Wildflower displays generally start in March and peak in mid to late April.
Ramsey Cascades is another popular trail in the area with good wildflower viewing opportunities. From the trailhead, it’s 4.0 miles to the cascades, which are the tallest in the Smokies.
Six miles of mostly gravel road follow the river and its tributaries into the upper Greenbrier area. Bicycling is permitted on Greenbrier roads but is prohibited on all trails.
The Greenbrier Picnic Area is open year round.
Trout fishing is open year round. Anglers need either a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license.
To get to the Greenbrier entrance to the park, take US-321 six miles east of Gatlinburg.
If you wish to avoid the crowds try one of the following scenic drives:
Foothills Parkway skirts portions of the park's northern side in Tennessee. Foothills Parkway West runs from Walland to Chilhowee, while Foothills Parkway East travels from Cosby to I-40, Exit #443. Originally, the road was intended to run the entire distance from I-40 to Chilhowee, however due to funding and legislative difficulties, the ultimate status of the unfinished sections of the parkway remains uncertain. The Foothills Parkway's open sections provide beautiful views of the park and surrounding country. Completed sections of the Foothills Parkway are open year-round, weather permitting.
Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.
Did You Know?
Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.