Trail Run Project Logo

Schoolhouse Gap Trail



2.1 mile 3.4 kilometer point to point
93% Runnable


Ascent: 496' 151 m
Descent: -4' -1 m
High: 2,082' 635 m
Low: 1,586' 483 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)


No Dogs
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by David Hitchcock

A wildflower and birding route along Spence Branch to Schoolhouse Gap.

David Hitchcock

Features Birding · River/Creek · Wildflowers

Closed when the Laurel Creek Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Cades Cove. For park road conditions, information can be found at or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.

Runner Notes

The old road makes a great place to run. Its not too rocky compared to the other trails in the area.


Take the Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove from the Townsend "Y". Follow the road for 3.5 miles and park at Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead on the right.

As the trail leaves the parking area, it climbs slightly along Spence Branch until it reaches Dorsey Gap.This is an old road that was supposed to connect Schoolhouse Gap to Bote Mountain Trail and ultimately Spence Field. Another road was supposed to have been built up the North Carolina side, but it was never completed and the road was abandoned. The trail is wide, and well maintained for easy travel. Right before the gap, there is a marshy area on the right of the trail good for birding or wildflower viewing. After you pass the gap, a narrow trail leads off to an area known as Whiteoak Sink. Caves in the Whiteoak Sink area provide homes for bats, although most caves are closed due to the threat of White Nose Syndrome.

As the trail continues to climb slightly to Schoolhouse Gap, you meet the Chestnut Top Trail at 2.0 miles, a trail that leads down to the Townsend Y. The trail continues for another .2 miles until it reaches Schoolhouse Gap and the park boundary. While there is no record of a school being at the gap, the name may refer to the fact that students walked through the gap in order to go to school in Townsend.

Private homes you see here are outside the park boundary and give the visitor an idea of what the area would be like if the woods weren't protected by the park service. You can now return to your car via the path you came.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers and birds can be seen along the trail, especially in areas around Spence Branch.

Bats inhabit the caves at Whiteoak Sink, but the caves are closed due to the threat from White Nose Syndrome. Wild hogs have been seen in this area as well.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


Mar 18, 2018
Ken C
4.3mi — 1h 02m
Jul 8, 2017
Stacia W

Trail Ratings

  2.8 from 4 votes


in Tremont


  2.8 from 4 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Tremont


in North Carolina


10 Views Last Month
935 Since Sep 4, 2015



The definition of a Rhododendron tunnel can be found on the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Finley Cove from Schoolhouse Gap.
Sep 4, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Spence Branch as it works its way toward Laurel Creek.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
The Laurel Creek Road passes close by the trail as you approach the Schoolhouse Gap parking lot.  This arch bridge crosses Laurel Creek and provides access from Townsend to Cades Cove.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Schoolhouse Gap Trail as it climbs along Spence Branch.  This was an old road that connected Schoolhouse Gap to the Bote Mountain Trail
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Turkeypen Ridge meets Schoolhouse Gap Trail at Dorsey Gap.
Feb 6, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running