Hike Charlies Bunion

North Carolina Newfound Gap Trailhead

Added by Tiffany Edmiston

This scenic hike from the Newfound Gap parking lot in Great Smoky Mountains NP offers spectacular views, a chance to jump on the Appalachian Trail, and free parking. The highest elevation is 6122'. 

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive approximately 13 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to reach the Newfound Gap Parking Area (it'll be on your left.) The parking area is free and there are bathrooms. Follow the Appalachian Trail towards Katahdin, Maine (1972 miles away, woah!) At this point, there will not be a sign for Charlies Bunion, don't worry, it's up there!

The trail typically starts with the crowd, who are just happy to be there stepping foot on the Appalachian Trail. The steady climb in elevation over the course of the first 2 miles leaves the majority of the crowd behind. After the first 2 miles, the trail evens out as you've gain the majority of your elevation. Go you!

When the trail splits (1.7 miles in) continue on towards the Icewater Spring Shelter, named after the nearby spring that flows from a pipe onto the trail (water needs to be treated before drinking.) Once you've reached the shelter you'll see the first sign for Charlies Bunion! This is the perfect time for a break, grab a snack & some water, take in the views and take advantage of the toilet area (biodegradable baby wipes are a good bonus to throw in the daypack.)

Once you leave the shelter, continue North on the Appalachian Trail towards Charlies Bunion, you're almost there! Just over a mile to go and mostly downhill! There are many beautiful views in all directions, as you get closer to your destination you'll know, the trail gives you a sneak peak and will send you happily power walking to finish your 4 mile trek to this wonder! There will be a sign that you've arrived, the Appalachian Trail continues on to Maine to the right of the sign and you'll be taking a slight left at the sign to be rewarded with an incredible view!

Charlies Bunion, a beautiful rock outcropping in the Smoky Mountains and one of my favorite hikes to date. If you've googled the trail, you've seen that it is defined as strenuous. I found the trail itself to require more endurance because of the distance and i didn't find it to be as strenuous as it has been classified to be. With that said, I believe this is a trail for all ages to enjoy. At the bunion, there are extremely steep drop-offs, watch your footing and closely control children (as the sign will remind you.) 8.1 miles is a long walk in the park, that is the toughest part but it is well worth it, believe me.

Pack List

  • Daypack
  • Water & healthy snacks
  • Camera, you'll want to capture this beautiful view
  • First aid kit
  • It's the Appalachian Trail, maybe throw in a few extra protein bars in case you run into a thru hiker, they'll really appreciate the gift :)
  • Lightweight jacket (high elevations get chilly)
  • All of your energy
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Share

Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8.1 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1640 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Scenic

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

16 days ago

Hiked On 11/14

Amazing section of the AT but get there early to avoid crowds

16 days ago

24 days ago

Might Be Obsessed With This Hike

I hiked Charlies Bunion for the first time this past weekend and I was totally in love. The climb for the first few miles is delicious (like, great steady incline that gets your heart pumping but doesn't kill you) and the views are phenomenal. I highly suggest combining this with the hike to The Jump Off. It will add an additional mile and some more elevation gain but you'll be able to see Charlies Bunion from above and it provides even more views of the surrounding range. I couldn't recommend this hike more! Be sure to lay up because you'll be warm while hiking but the summits are cold and windy. Also, it's been said already but this hike is really crowded so if you want to avoid the crowds start early or bring a headlamp and come back down in the dark.

24 days ago

3 months ago

Incredible Views

Loved this hike! Definitely go early to beat the crowds, and layer up.

3 months ago

Amazing Views

This is not a hike for the faint of heart but once you step out onto Charlies Bunion all muscle aches and cramps melt away as you gaze out over the valley below in almost a 360 panoramic views

5 months ago

6 months ago

Awesome spot

Not a super strenuous hike. Took about an hour and a half to get there. Views are incredible. If you want to have the place to yourself then get out there while the sun is rising. We passed about 50+ people on the way back at around 10am. I'm sure if you wait any later a line forms at the rock.

6 months ago

6 months ago

Beautiful

What a beautiful hike! The first two miles are definitely strenuous; at least for me at 61. After that point it's less taxing, you're warmed up and ready for the rest of the adventure. When you come to the junction (signs to the Boulevard, Charles Bunion & shelter)take a right. Pretty much you will descend for about 1.2 miles. Then a short ascent to Charles Bunion. It's spectacular!! For some reason the ascent back to the junction was easier that I thought it would be. Take hiking poles! Enjoy!

6 months ago

9 months ago

Great Moderate Hike

Charlies Bunion is an amazing 8-mile hike and offers amazing views of the Smokies. There is a trail shelter along the way, Ice Water Springs, if you want to plan a trip in this area. Just be warned this is a very popular shelter and you will most likely not be the only people there. Pretty steady ascent, but gets better the further you go!

9 months ago

10 months ago

Great Hike!

At 8 miles round trip, this hike can be long for some people. However, the view is absolutely stunning with around 300 degrees of visibility. I recommend going early to beat the crowds, as I made it to the Bunion around noon, and saw over 40 people heading up on my way back.

10 months ago

11 months ago

Amazing

a beautiful trail with some of the best view in the park, definitely save time for the jump off as well! Great write up!

11 months ago

More Adventures Nearby

Hike to Crabtree Falls

North Carolina / Crabtree Meadows Campground

Starting from the old store parking area at MP 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, follow the trail through a meadow past the campground amphitheater.

Elyse Clark
6 Saves

Hike to Skinny Dip Falls

North Carolina / Looking Glass Falls Overlook Parking Area

Park at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. After enjoying the view of Looking Glass Rock, gear up and head to the right side of the parking area (right side if your back is to the overlook).

Jess Fischer
17 Saves

Hike to Douglas Falls

North Carolina / Douglas Falls Trailhead

The trail begins at the back of the parking area, and is marked by a trail sign. Once on the trail it is a straight shot to the waterfall with no turnoffs.