• Activities:

    Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3500 Feet

Easy Parking
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers

This hike has some of the most rewarding views in all of the Smoky Mountains!

Rocky Top is known to be the spot that inspired the famousfight song of the University of Tennessee, which is also an official song forthe state of Tennessee. 

The trailhead for this hike begins in the Cade’s Cove picnicarea parking lot towards the back side. There are a few parking spots right atthe trailhead, so arrive early in the day to ensure a spot. To begin, followthe Anthony Creek Trail for about 3.5 miles. Hikers will pass a horse camprelatively early on and then a few bridges over the creek that the trail follows.The first 2 miles are relatively easy to moderate in difficulty, only gainingabout 500 feet in elevation.

At about 3.5 miles, Anthony Creek Trail will join BoteMountain Trail. Turn right to continue heading up to Rocky Top. Here the traillandscape will change slightly and increase elevation gain. Rhododendron linethe trail on each side and create a dense barrier limiting visibility throughthe woods. Erosion has also created a ditch-like tunnel on this portion of thetrail.

At around 5.2 miles (1.7 miles after turning on BoteMountain Trail), hikers will reach the junction of the Appalachian Trail bySpence Field. Turn left here and you’ll be rewarded with some incredible views,which only get better as you head towards Rocky Top. The last 1.2 miles toRocky Top are pretty steep, but well worth the effort.

Hikers will know they’ve reached Rocky Top once they climbup a steep incline and reach a rocky, bald patch. At this point you can seealmost 360 degree panoramic views. Relax and take in the views of thisincredible place!

Pack List

  • Day Pack
  • Drinking Water
  • First Aid Kit
  • Trekking Poles
  • Camera
  • Trail Snacks
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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

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Reviews

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If camping at Cades Cove, this is a hike you should absolutely consider. The views from Spence Field and Rocky Top are simply breathtaking. It is definitely not an easy hike due to all the elevation gain and the distance, but it will be worth it!

10 months ago
10 months ago

Rocky Top is one of the best views in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is only accessible via backcountry trails, which means you lose the crowds that you'd find at Clingman's Dome or Newfound Gap. The Spence Field AT shelter is just over a mile and a half away, and would make a great place to camp overnight to allow you to enjoy Rocky Top at sunset or sunrise.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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