The Lost Cove Trail eases away from the Lakeshore Trail and into the draw on a wide, level track marred only by its occasional unevenness. Within the first 100 yards, it encounters the first of 10 stream crossings that occur within the span of 2 miles. In most instances, Lost Cove Creek can be cleared by rock-hopping, however, some of the lower elevation crossings require wading when the stream is swollen from rain and snowmelt.
After the first crossing, the trail maintains an exceedingly pleasant course, staying to the old railroad trace and fording the stream at intervals varying from slightly more than 350 yards to less than 60 yards.
After completing the 5th crossing, the trail enters a level tract that was once occupied by Montvale Camp 17, built in 1921. In 1899, Will Meyer built a newer house and a grist mill about 500 yards upstream near the confluence of Cold Spring Branch and Lost Cove Creek. Meyer’s second homesite is now occupied by the Upper Lost Cove Backcountry Campsite (#91), a small, rough, bare plot that lies astride the trail.
Above the Upper Lost Cove Camp, the grade stiffens perceptibly, and the cove narrows, pressing the trail and stream into closer proximity. Here, the terrain becomes rocky and the soil of poorer quality, although the abundance of moisture and intermittent shade makes this a splendid environment for spring wildflowers.
After three additional crossings of Lost Cove Creek, the trail leaves the drainage to begin a series of wide switchbacks that terminate a mile farther in Sassafras Gap on Twentymile Ridge. The course through the switchbacks is exceedingly steep, and the track is rough. The climb is arguably among the most difficult of any trail in the Smokies. At Sassafras Gap, the Lost Cove Trail terminates into the Appalachian Trail (AT).
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
Second-growth oaks are the dominant tree species, and grapevines are the most conspicuous of the woody growth.