“Easy trail that can provide access to Spence Field and the AT via Bote Mountain Trail.
— David Hitchcock
Closed when the Laurel Creek Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Cades Cove. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
The trail is wet, rocky, narrow, and often used by horses, so it can be challenging to run on this trail. Creeks and brooks that cross the creek make rock hops necessary in areas, adding to obstacles on the trail.
The trailhead is on the Laurel Creek Road on the way to Cades Cove, 5.6 miles from the Townsend "Y." Parking is on both sides of the road, with the trailhead being on the left side of the road.
Finley Cane Trail, Lead Cove Trail
, and Turkeypen Ridge Trail
all depart from this parking area on Laurel Creek Road. Finley Cane is on the south side of the road, and goes off to the left as it follows Laurel Creek Road. You'll keep close to the road for a little bit before the trail turns away from the road and crosses Sugar Cove Creek via an easy rock hop in most conditions. You'll be passing under rhododendrons, magnolias, and eventually hemlocks as the forest changes around you. You'll encounter a well used, muddy horse trail that goes off to the left, but that leads back to Laurel Creek Road where it ultimately meets Turkeypen Ridge Trail
. Our trail continues straight as it crosses a small creek before starting its climb up the side of Bote Mountain.
You'll enter a rhododendron tunnel that will open and close for about half a mile, providing shade in the hot summer months. Rock hops help cross Laurel Cove Creek and Hickory
Branch as the tunnel opens into a hardwood forest. It's a mix of younger and older trees, but not virgin forests that you might encounter in other parts of the park. The trail continues to rise and fall as you make your way up Bote Mountain. While mostly dry, a few small creek branches cross the trail throughout the year, making it ideal for salamanders and mushrooms. There are 29 species of salamanders in the park, but over 2000 varieties of mushrooms throughout the park.
The last mile of the trail climbs more steadily to the Bote Mountain Trail
. You'll encounter cane in this area, which is the only native form of bamboo in the park. The trail can be rocky and rooty in places as you climb. When you reach the Bote Mountain Trail
intersection, there are several options for you.
If you want to return to your car, you can return via the way path you came, or you can continue up to the Bote Mountain Trail
to the Lead Cove Trail
, and return to the trailhead via Lead Cove. If you want to run to the Appalachian Trail and Spence Field
, follow the Bote Mountain Trail
to the AT for stunning views of the surrounding area.
Flora & Fauna
Lots of rhododendron, mushrooms, cane, and some wildflowers in the spring.
29 varieties of salamanders can be found in the park, and can be discovered on this trail in the wet, damp areas.
Evidence of wild boar can be seen in the area, and a trap off the trail can be seen as the park tries to deal with this invasive species. You may also encounter deer, bear, and other animals common in the woods in this part of the park.