Rocks and roots throughout this run can be dangerous for ankles.
From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, drive 7.3 miles north on Newfound Gap Road to reach the parking area for the Kephart Prong Trail
, located on your right, just off the side of the road.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, you'll drive 21.8 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to reach the trailhead.
After parking at the trailhead, run the 2.1 miles to the Kephart shelter (along Kephart Prong Trail
) where you'll find the trailhead for the Grassy Branch Trail
As you leave the Kephart Shelter, the ascent begins in earnest as you climb out of the Oconaluftee River drainage and begin skirting the ridges as you climb toward the Dry Sluice Gap Trail
As you run uphill, you'll eventually come to an old stone wall, where the trail winds a bit. You'll cross several ridges and several creeks as you make your way uphill. Most of the creeks are simple rock hops, unless the water is high after a rainstorm. Small creeks can find their way onto the trail after rain storms, so be prepared for mud if it's been raining recently. Most of the views are obscured as you climb up the mountain, but occasional views of the surrounding peaks will be offered through the trees.
When you get to the eroded part of the trail where the trail is 1-2 feet below the surrounding landscape, you are almost to the end of this trail. The trail is relatively clean, for most of the run, although more roots and rocks appear once you get into the eroded part of the trail. When you get to the Dry Sluice Gap Trail
sign, you have reached the end of this trail and now have several choices. You can return via the trail that you climbed or take one of the trails that intersect Grassy Branch Trail
at this point.
Climbing 1.3 miles on the Dry Sluice Gap Trail
, you can access the Appalachian Trail near Charlie's Bunion. Going the other way, you can take Dry Sluice Gap to the Bradley Fork Trail
, finally ending 7.4 miles downhill at the Smokemont Campground. Both of these require car shuttles, arranged rides, or hitchhiking to get back to your car at the Kephart Prong Trailhead.
Due to its location and limited views, traffic on the trail once your are past the shelter is light. On the right day, you may have this part of the woods all to yourself.