Bear Creek Trail
ElevationAscent: 3,073' 937 m
Descent: -1' 0 m
High: 4,877' 1,487 m
Low: 1,804' 550 m
GradeAvg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 22% (12°)
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“A beautiful trek along the calming waters of Bear Creek and the striking woodlands atop Jumpup Ridge”— Ken Wise
Within the next 250 yards, the trail turns away from Welch Branch in a sharp switchback in the direction of Bear Creek. Just at the point when the trail turns, a short footbridge crosses the stream and guides visitors onto an access path leading up into the extremely narrow Welch Branch drainage to a historic homesite and the Hoyle Cemetery.
When the Bear Creek Trail switches away from Welch Branch, it begins following the contours of the lower end of Jumpup Ridge, soon working its way back to Bear Creek. As the trail penetrates deeper into the drainage, it picks up a wide easy track, soon maneuvering into a streamside course along Bear Creek.
Above the switchback at Welch Branch, cross Bear Creek twice on wooden bridges before continuing to the Poplar Flats Backcountry Campsite (#75).
Above the Poplar Flats Camp, the trail narrows and steepens, proceeding through second-growth hardwood forests bearing remarkably little undergrowth before negotiating a wide S-shaped curve onto the ill-defined crest of Jumpup Ridge. Following the spine of Jumpup Ridge, the trail enters a pine-oak mixed forest and proceeds through a laurel corridor before dropping into a slight swag. Just above the swag, openings in the forest cover offer some nice views of the upper reaches of Fontana Lake.
The dry-ridge conditions soon give way to cove hardwoods as the trail resumes its steep grade and begins tracing the contours of Jumpup Ridge and Bald Ridge. Ascend Bald Ridge on rolling trail through mixed woodlands until reaching increasingly rocky terrain that signals the onset of the final steep pull onto the flank of Welch Ridge and the termination of the trail at a junction with the Welch Ridge Trail.
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