Cooper Road Trail
ElevationAscent: 2,040' 622 m
Descent: -1,331' -406 m
High: 2,219' 676 m
Low: 1,112' 339 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 16% (9°)
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“An old wagon road through gorgeous Smoky Mountain woodlands.”— Ken Wise
Slightly less than a mile above Abrams Creek Campground, the Cooper Road Trail intersects the Little Bottoms Trail on the right before entering the Cooper Road Backcountry Campsite (#1).
When it leaves the campsite, the trail retains its character as a rough wagon road, wide and rutted, passing through occasional muddy puddles. Beyond the campsite, it reaches Gold Mine Gap, where it intersects the eastern terminus of the Gold Mine Trail.
Beyond Gold Mine Gap, the Cooper Road Trail descends to Cane Gap before turning sharply right and climbing steadily to the crest of Hatcher Mountain. The road course here is dry and sandy, heavily eroded, and often encumbered with roots and rocks.
When the Cooper Road Trail reaches the crest of Hatcher Mountain, it enters a crossroads that marks the intersection of Cooper Road with the Hatcher Mountain Trail and the Beard Cane Trail before descending steadily on a rough, rocky course to a stream crossing. The steepness moderates, and the roughness subsides as the trail proceeds to the coolness of a shaded hollow where it immediately crosses a tributary of Wilson Branch. Farther along, the trail completes a messy crossing of Wilson Branch and then turns and proceeds up the hollow following the course of a small feeder stream.
At the head of the draw, the trail crosses the feeder and enters into a steep climb to the crest of Stony Ridge. Upon clearing Stony Ridge, the trail descends to an easy crossing of Stony Branch and then turns and starts into a climb to the crest of Arbutus Ridge. As it eases onto the ridge, the trail turns sharply back to the left to follow the ridgeline briefly before dropping off for a steep descent into the Arbutus Branch drainage. Here, the course winds considerably on a track that is wide, smooth, and shaded by pines before ending at a tributary of Arbutus Branch.
Crossing Arbutus Branch on a concrete causeway, the trail proceeds downstream for a short distance, approaching Cades Cove before intersecting the upper terminus of the Wet Bottom Trail just before the trail’s end.
This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park