Outbound Collective logo

Hike to Rocky Top


based on 2 reviews



12.8 miles

Elevation Gain

3500 ft

Route Type



Added by Ally Woodall

The Rocky Top hike has some of the most rewarding views in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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

The trailhead for this hike begins in the Cade’s Cove picnic area parking lot towards the back side. There are a few parking spots right at the trailhead, so arrive early in the day to ensure a spot. To begin, follow the Anthony Creek Trail for about 3.5 miles. Hikers will pass a horse camp relatively 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 gaining about 500 feet in elevation.

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

At around 5.2 miles (1.7 miles after turning on Bote Mountain 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 climb up a steep incline and reach a rocky, bald patch. At this point you can see almost 360 degree panoramic views. Relax and take in the views of this incredible place!

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app
Download GPX File


Easy Parking
Picnic Area

Hike to Rocky Top Reviews

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!

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.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Backpack to Spence Field

Bike Cade's Cove Loop

Abrams Falls Trail

Gregory Bald via Gregory Ridge Trail

Spruce Flats Falls

Hike to Indian Flat Falls via Middle Prong Trail