“A steep climb from the Kephart Shelter to the Appalachian Trail (AT).”
— David Hitchcock
River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
Closed if Newfound Gap Road (US HWY 441 between Gatlinburg TN - Cherokee NC) is closed due to snow and ice. Newfound Gap Road information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
The trailhead for Sweat Heifer Creek Trail is located at the Kephart Prong Shelter up the Kephart Prong Trail
roughly 2.0 miles. The trail climbs 2,300 feet from the shelter to the Appalachian Trail. It's a heck of a run, but some of the views make the work worth it. Work in the last 5-6 years has greatly improved the trail by adding steps, drainage, and retaining walls.
The trail immediately crosses the creek and then starts to move away from the creek. The forest around you is a second growth forest due to heavy logging by the Champion Fibre Company in the early 1900s. The trail, described as a hard-packed dirt trail, starts to climb as it follows the mountain. The trail gets narrow and rockier for a short while before it joins an old railroad bed and levels out for a short while. After going through a dry creek bed, you begin to hear the sound of Sweat Heifer Creek at 1.6 miles. This is a great place to enjoy the creek, grab a bite to eat, and rest before continuing your trek uphill.
The trail climbs up the hillside and offers views of the creek that you just crossed. The trail leaves the railroad bed and climbs along a hillside that can be full of wildflowers in the spring. Leaving the moisture of the creeks behind, the trail emerges on a dry ridge and turns to the right. A view of the crest, where the AT wanders, comes into view as the trail gets rough and root-filled due to erosion. The trail starts to level out as you approach the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the end of your climbing.
From here, you have several options. Turning right takes you toward Charlies Bunion
and the Dry Sluice Gap Trail
which can be used with Grassy Branch Trail
to take you back to the Kephart Prong Shelter. If you turn to the left, Newfound Gap is just 1.7 miles from the junction. There are plenty of options at this point.
More information on this trail and others can be found in Hiking Trails of the Smokies
Flora & Fauna
Ferns, toothwort, crested dwarf iris, and various other flowers.
Blackberries can be found in various sections of the trail.