“A quiet, solitary jaunt along the park boundary with views into Wear Cove.
— David Hitchcock
Closed when the Little River Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Sugarlands Visitor Center or if Wears Cove Road outside of the park is too icy. Since the trail starts on the park boundary, it is rarely closed. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
The trailhead is on Wear Cove Gap Road at the park boundary. You can take the Little River Road to Metcalf Bottom, drive straight across the bridge and go about 1.25 miles to the park boundary, where you can park. You can also access the trail by going through Wears Valley and taking the Wear Cove Gap Road to the park boundary.
Since this trail begins on the park boundary, it's a great trail even if most of the park roads are closed due to high water or snow. Even though it is easy to get to and has beautiful views, this trail is rarely used, so it is great if you are looking to get away from the crowds. As you start to work your way uphill, you get your first taste of what the majority of the trail will be. This trail climbs almost 2000 feet from where the trail starts at Wears Cove to Laurel Falls Trail
. Its a continuous climb, but most people agree its not hard.
As you work your way along the park boundary, you catch glimpses into Wear Cove, which lies outside the park. You'll continue in and out of the park as you follow the trail. When you reach 1.9 miles, you reach Little Brier Gap. You can take a right turn and work your way down to the Walker Sisters homesite, about .6 miles from the gap. It's a quick side trip, but worth it if you haven't visited the site on another outing. If you've been there before, continue your trek straight ahead to begin climbing Chinquapin Ridge.
You'll work your way up the ridge as it begins to wind through the mountains. When you look into Wear Cove, you're looking into one of three valleys in the area. Coves like Wear, Cades, and Tuckaleechee were all opened when softer rock, like phyllite, was worn down and the valleys opened up.
Around mile 4, the forest opens up a little bit as you cross the ridge and come to the Laurel Falls Trail
and the end of the trail. At this point, you can turn left and climb another mile to the summit of Cove Mountain, and the old fire tower there. If you turn left and work your way downhill about 1.8 miles, you'll get to Laurel Falls
the most visited waterfall in the park. Your final option is to turn around and work your way back down to Wear Cove Gap and your car.
Flora & Fauna
Wildflowers are prevalent in the first mile or so of the trail. Various varieties of orchids can be found along the trail, including the rattlesnake-plantain.