“A steady climb and descent along an old roadbed through dense, diverse forests.
— Ken Wise
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
The Smokemont Loop Trail begins at the lower end of the campground on an old concrete bridge over Bradley Fork that once serviced a county road following up the Oconaluftee before the newer Newfound Gap Road was built by the federal government. Beyond the bridge, the trail follows the old county road through weedy clusters of great lobelias, wild golden-glows, Joe-pye-weeds, and black-eyed Susans for 340 yards before leaving the roadbed and turning up to the right on a conventional graded path. The trail climbs only a few yards before intersecting an access path that exits left down the slope to the Bradley Cemetery. The cemetery harbors about fifty graves, most of which are marked by weathered fieldstones.
The climb continues through a pine heath and into a dry-ridge mix of pignut hickories, yellow poplars, and scarlet and chestnut oaks. A noticeably level plot of grass shaded by a grove of eastern hemlock heralds a quarter-mile approach to a ridgeline where the trail switchbacks right to begin a steep descent to Bradley Fork. From the ridgeline, Thomas Divide can be seen ranging along the far side of the Oconaluftee River Valley.
A mile below the switchback, the trail eases into a bottomland that was once cleared for farmland. At a footlog over a feeder stream, the Smokemont Loop Trail turns upstream along Bradley Fork and proceeds 120 yards to cross on a long springy footlog. Twenty-five yards above the footlog, the Smokemont!Loop Trail terminates into the Bradley Fork 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
Flora & Fauna
Pignut hickories, yellow poplars, scarlet and chestnut oaks, eastern hemlock, great lobelias, wild golden-glows, Joe-pye-weeds, and black-eyed Susans are abundant along the trail.