“A trail up Spruce Mountain to Campsite #42, one of the highest campsites in the park.
— David Hitchcock
Balsam Mountain Road is closed in the winter, so access via that road is restricted during that time of year. Smokies road information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
A backcountry permit is required to stay in campsites and shelters. Camping is restricted to established campsites or shelters throughout the park.
The Spruce Mountain Trailhead is located 6 miles down the one-way, gravel Balsam Mountain Road. The parking area is a wide spot in road with room for a couple of cars. The trail is on the right hand side of the road.
If you are looking for a quiet, uphill run in an isolated portion of the park, this is the trail for you. There is a good chance that you'll only see one or two people on the trail. In the fall, the leaves change offering a little bit of color. It should be noted that due the lack of foot traffic and its isolated nature, it has been reported that this trail is slightly overgrown and not as well maintained as other trails in the park.
The Spruce Mountain Trail leaves the road, crosses a small stream, and starts climbing immediately as it follows an old jeep trail that ran up to an old fire tower (long since gone). Climbing over 800 feet in the first mile, the trail narrows as it climbs up the mountain. Throughout the run, there are areas where the hill drops steeply off from the trail. At roughly .5 miles, the trail cuts back to the right and becomes grassy underfoot. This makes for easy running as the trail continues to climb to a gap between Spruce and Chiltoes mountains. This is where the Poll's Gap Trail (closed in the early 2000s) used to join the Spruce Mountain Trail. Once the trail passes 1 mile, the trail descends slightly for .2 miles until the trail comes to Campsite #42.
If you have a permit, you can enjoy this isolated campsite, which at 5,450 feet is one of the highest campsites in the park. While there aren't sweeping views, chances are you'll be the only party spending the night there. If this is a day run for you, take a break and grab a bite to eat before returning to your car via the path you came. There are no other trails that intersect with this trail, so it's your only real option.
Flora & Fauna
Turkeys have been seen along the road and trail.
Beech, yellow birch, rosebay rhododendron, and red spruce trees are seen throughout the run.
Trilliums, violets, blackberry, and several other wildflowers can be observed along the trail.