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.
- 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
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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.
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!
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!
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.
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