“A nice trail for spring wildflowers, especially in April.”
— David Hitchcock
Views · Wildflowers
Chestnut Top Trail is one of the trails in the park that starts outside of the gates that close roads in the winter. It can be accessed even if the Little River and Laurel Creek Roads are closed.
The trailhead is at the Townsend "Y" parking lot.
This is a popular route in the spring thanks to the wide variety of wildflowers that grow along the trail for the first .5 mile. However, at other points in the year, it offers a quiet trip through the woods, once you get away from the Townsend "Y" and the sound of people enjoying the park.
The trail begins across the road from the parking lot, climbing steeply from the road along the slope. It is here, in the first .5 mile, that a great display of wildflowers can be seen in the springtime. Once you have made it through the first half mile, the trail moves to a south facing slope and begins to dry out as you continue to climb.
The trail leaves the sounds and area of the "Y" about 1 mile into the trip. Making your way through the forest, you have the opportunity to take in the hardwoods and pines in the area. Be on the look out for trees where bears have marked their territory with scratches. You'll also find breaks in the trees over 2 miles into the trail that offer views of the crest of the Smokies, especially Thunderhead Mountain. The trail climbs gently until you reach the highest point, Chestnut Top, at 2.8 miles. From Chestnut Top, you'll descend slightly into Bryant Gap where you'll meet the park boundary to the right. The trail levels out for the next mile or so until you come to the junction of Schoolhouse Gap Trail
and the end of the trail.
You have several options now that you have reached the end of the trail. You can go right on Schoolhouse Gap Trail
for approximately .2 miles, where you quickly come to the end of Dry Valley, where the park boundary is. If the Park Service re-opens the Scott Mountain Trail
, which sustained heavy damage in a storm one year, you can continue on the trail toward Cades Cove. If you take a left at the junction, you follow Schoolhouse Gap Trail
for 2 miles to Laurel Creek Road. Your final option is turn around and retrace the 4.3 miles back to your car.
Even though it is named Chestnut Top Trail, there are no American chestnut trees along the trail today due to a fungus that was introduced from China in the early 1900s. The American chestnut tree was plentiful in the mountains, providing food and extra income for many families. Research continues in hopes of finding a way to combat the fungus and restore the trees throughout the park.
Flora & Fauna
This is one of the best wildflower trails in the park in the spring time. A large variety of wildflowers exist along the first .5 mile of the trail.
Bears, deer, and other mammals have been seen in the area.