There is a significant elevation gain from the campsite at Walnut Bottom (Campsite 37) to the base of Mt. Sterling. This is where the trail becomes strenuous, and using extra caution is highly recommended. Leaving the campsite, runners must backtrack (not even a tenth of a mile), where they will see a junction where Big Creek Trail
and Swallow Fork Trail meet.
Following the Swallow Fork Trail, visitors will cover 4 miles where they will gradually move out of the forest and onto the Mt. Sterling Ridge.
At the end of the trail, visitors have the choice of heading South at the trailhead junction on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail
, or East/West via the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail
(which is also part of the Benton MacKaye Trail
As with any trail in the Smokies, you might see black bears. There are abundant salamanders (31 different species) in the creeks. Spring wildflowers peak from early April through late May along the entire route, with some later blooms at the higher elevations.
For more information on black bears, refer to this webpage