“A gentle climb featuring some of the busier and most popular spots in the area.
— 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 steep climb, combined with rocky and narrow trail once you cross Laurel Creek Road makes this a tough trail for running.
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 right side of the road. You can also park in the Cades Cove Picnic Area and traverse the .2 miles out from the Anthony Creek Trail
, where Crib Gap breaks off to the left.
The trail is not a quiet run in the woods like other outings in the Smokies. You are close to Laurel Creek Road, the only car access into the popular Cades Cove area, for most of the way. As you reach the end of the trail, you approach the Anthony Creek Trail
, a popular trail, and the Cades Cove picnic area.
After hitting the trail headed towards Cades Cove, you quickly come upon a trail junction where the Turkeypen Ridge Trail
crosses the Crib Gap Trail. The trail ascends over the next mile as you climb towards Cades Cove. You pass through forests full of hemlocks and dogwoods before emerging on Laurel Creek Road. Piles of rocks in this area indicate foundations used to help level the houses of early settlers. Work your way along the road for about 500 feet and then carefully cross the road to the other side. The trail is narrow as it climbs away from the road and loose rocks are common on the trail. When you come to a gap, you have reached Crib Gap at an elevation of 2200 feet.
From here, your trail climb is over as you begin to descend into the Anthony Creek area of Cades Cove. Working your way down a couple of switchbacks, the forest begins to change from pine-oak to hemlock. The climate begins to change from warm and dry to cool and damp. Cross a tributary of Anthony Creek via a rock hop, and follow the wide gravel path ahead of you until you hit the trail junction with Anthony Creek Trail
You can return to your car via the path you came in on, or you can explore the area. Access to the AT can be provided by the Anthony Creek Trail
or the Russell Field Trail
off to the left. The Cades Cove picnic area is off to your right, if you want to find a place to eat lunch.
Flora & Fauna
Deer, bear, squirrels, and chipmunks can be encountered here.
Rhododendrons, various mushroom varieties, and dogwoods can all be found in this area.