The steep sustained climb followed by a steep, sustained descent make this a formidable fitness challenge and a poor run.
The Martins Gap Trail begins as singletrack leading off of the turnaround that marks the upper terminus of the Indian Creek Trail
. It then drops into a heavily shaded defile that harbors the course of Indian Creek. During the spring several varieties of wildflower can be found along here.
Two hundred yards ahead is the first of two footlog crossing over Indian Creek. After the second crossing, the trail begins a much steeper course that edges up and away from the fast-moving creek.
A half-mile on, the trail enters a switchback to clear another footlog and cross Indian Creek for the final time. After proceeding downstream for about 300 yards, it switches back sharply to the right and begins climbing steeply up the flank of Sunkota Ridge through second-growth stands of scrub pine and mountain laurel. Expect a small feeder stream to briefly run across the trail.
At the half-way point, the trail pulls into Martins Gap and crosses over the Sunkota Ridge Trail
before descending steeply along the west flank of Sunkota Ridge. Three-quarters of a mile down, the grade moderates briefly at a wide circling switchback that clear a ridge point at the head of Nicks Nest Branch.
After the point, the trail moves away from Nicks Nest and returns to a steeper course, soon reaching a wooden bridge over a cascading stream. A switchback just beyond the bridge signals a long gradual descent to Backcountry Camp 57, Bryson Place. Martins Gap Trail terminates into the Deep Creek Trail
at the campsite.
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
At the start of the trail, eastern hemlock, white basswood, and red maple are prevalent in the tree cover while dense thickets of witch-hobble, dog-hobble, and rhododendron comprise the understory. In the spring, showy orchis, false Solomon’s-seal, wild geranium, crested dwarf iris, and trilliums are common.
The climb up Sunkota Ridge features galax, trailing arbutus, and pink lady’s-slipper along the trailside. On the other side of the ridge, the forest is formed of a dry-ridge mix of eastern hemlock, white pine, sourwood, red maple, and several varieties of oaks.