Hike the Little River Trail to Backcountry Campsite #30

Little River Trailhead

Located in the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Little River trail is a beautifully reclaimed railway bed with a steady 412 feet elevation gain. The trail offers relaxing river scenery, wildflowers, first rate fly fishing, multiple backcountry campsites, as well as a healthy dose of history. In early June, when I made this hike, the trail also plays host to a breathtaking display of luminously synchronized fireflies.

The trailhead parking area is large but if no spaces are available additional parking can be had at the Jake's Creek trailhead at the top of the hill and to the right of the Little River trail parking lot. After parking, the trailhead itself will be to the left of the parking area.
Parking Lot Coordinates: 35.65365, -83.58018

From here the trail traces the Little River virtually to it's source. You will pass several dilapidated cottages and cabins that once were part of a group of vacation homes. Signs warn not to enter these houses due to safety hazards. A very unique feature of this hike is the so-called "Troll Bridge". Finding it is somewhat of a rite-of-passage. It is located very close to the beginning of the trail but that's all the help I'll give you :)

Just beyond the 2 mile point the trail passes Husky Branch Falls. This small falls flows beneath the trail and into the Little River. From here the trail gradually narrows as you approach the intersection of the Cucumber Gap trail intersection. Continuing on, you will cross the river using a converted railroad trestle and immediately see the Husky Gap trailhead. Backcountry campsite #21 is a short walk down this trail. From here the trail temporarily departs from the river and in about 2 miles passes through backcountry campsite #24. Soon after leaving this camping area you will come to the Rough Creek trail intersection. From here, it is a 1.8 mile final approach to the terminus of the Little River trail at backcountry campsite #30.

The remote campsite #30 is suitable for groups and offers spots for both tent and hammock campers. Lot's of water available for use with filtration as well as cable systems for safely securing food items. Keep in mind that to access campsite #30 you MUST cross the river.

Looking for a little refreshment after your hike? Be sure to check out the Artistic Bean Coffee Shop in Townsend. Literally some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. It's about 15 miles by car from the Little River trail parking area via the Little River road.

Check out for hikingthesmokys.com more on the history of the Elkmont area and also http://www.nps.gov/grsm for information on the Elkmont fireflies.

Pack List

Must-have gear:
  • GSMNP backcountry permit from https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/index.cfm?BCPermitTypeID=1
  • Trail map
  • Backpack
  • Quality hiking boots/shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Tent or hammock/shelter system
  • Water filtration or purification tablets
  • Meals
  • Headlamp or other illumination
  • Sleeping bag rated for the season(low temps at #30 still dip into the low mid 40's F even in summer)
Optional take-alongs:
  • Fishing tackle(Ultralight spinning or fly rod. Tenkara works great here)
  • Cooking utensils if you prefer hot meals
  • Hiking poles will help on water crossings
  • Bear spray(black bear habitat)
Show More
RT Distance 12 Miles
Elevation Gain 412 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Excellent hike

I did this hike in late January and it was perfect! Despite it being winter, it's a very green, lush hike thanks to all of the rhodendron and moss along the river. It's almostly entirely flat and makes for an easy, fun stroll that would be great for families. There are several small creek crossings that can be bit tricky if it's rained a lot recently (like when I went).

No bear spray

No need for bear spray with Black bears if you know how to handle the situation.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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