Hike the Little River Trail to Backcountry Campsite #30

Little River Trailhead, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    412 Feet

Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

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)
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

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

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).

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Adam Welch

Call me Moose, everyone else does. I am foremost a photo maker and wordsmith and spend my time in an ever present struggle to escape my day job. I physically love bacon, wide open spaces, and making photographs in the more inspiring areas of the world. Also, beer.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

8 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves