The first four miles is firm and well graded, making it easy to run along. After that, the trail becomes steeper and the footing less sure.
The trailhead is at the far end of the D Loop in the Smokemont Campground.
If you are looking for an easy trail that follows a mountain stream, the first 4+ miles of this trail climbs gently along the Bradley Fork of the Oconaluftee River before it starts climbing steeply to the junction with the Hughes Ridge Trail
. If it has been raining recently, water can be found flowing across, along and down the middle of the trail as it makes its way into the river. The trail can be muddy, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear.
The trail rises and falls for the first half mile as it works through the woods. The trail is wide and gravely for the first several miles, making it easy to navigate the trail. At mile 1.1, the trail crosses a side creek via a wooden bridge and then reaches the junction of Chasteen Creek Trail
at mile 1.2. Once you pass the trail sign for Campsite #50, the trail continues along the river until you reach the Smokemont Loop Trail
, which leads back to Smokemont Campground.
The trail then moves through an area with a large variety of wildflowers, making it a great place for wildflower lovers in the spring. There are a couple of creek crossings ahead via log bridges. When the trail reaches 4 miles, Cabin Flats Trail
leads to Campsite #49 while the Bradley Fork Trail makes a right turn and starts climbing more steeply.
As the trail climbs up the ridge, it leaves behind the moist environs of the Bradley Fork and things become drier on the exposed ridges. The trail moves through a creek valley where the Taywa Creek makes its way downhill. Two wooden bridges cross the creek and at mile 6.0, the trail becomes steeper and narrower. At 7.3 miles, the trail ends at the junction with Hughes Ridge Trail
At this point, there are several options for continuing your journey. You can return via the trail that you just climbed, or you can go left 2.2 miles to the Appalachian Trail (AT). If you go to the right, the trail leads 8.1 miles back to Smokemont Campground via the Hughes Ridge Trail
followed by the Chasteen Creek Trail
There are lots of wildflowers and trees throughout the first four miles of the trail. Dwarf crested iris, foamflower, buttercups, umbrella leaf, and violets are just some of the flowers that will be encountered during the journey.