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Kephart Prong Trail



4.1 mile 6.5 kilometer out and back
86% Runnable


Ascent: 842' 257 m
Descent: -841' -256 m
High: 3,576' 1,090 m
Low: 2,734' 833 m


Avg Grade: 8% (4°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by David Hitchcock

A quiet stroll along the Oconaluftee River that showcases the park's CCC and logging history.

David Hitchcock

Features River/Creek

Closed if Newfound Gap Road (US HWY 441 between Gatlinburg TN - Cherokee NC) is closed due to snow and ice. Newfound Gap Road information can be found at or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.


This gentle route is one of the most enjoyable shorter runs in the park. Easily accessible, it is also one of the most family friendly. Along the way, you'll be able to enjoy the history of the park firsthand as you'll pass the remnants of a CCC camp that was constructed in the 1930's. Additionally, this would be a great route used to introduce youngsters to backpacking overnight trips, as the shelter located at the end of the trail makes for an easy stopping point.


From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, drive 7.3 miles north on Newfound Gap Road to reach the parking area for the Kephart Prong Trail, located on your right, just off the side of the road.

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, you'll drive 21.8 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to reach the trailhead.

Running from Newfound Gap Road to the Kephart Prong Shelter, you'll cross the Oconaluftee River several times as you follow the old Champion Fiber Company logging road to the shelter. After 0.2 of a mile, you'll see remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp that was here from 1933-1942. The remains of the CCC include old walls, chimneys, and other artifacts from the camp that housed over 200 members of the CCC during the Great Depression.

After you pass the remains of the camp, the trail continues gently uphill, crossing the river 4 more times until you reach the shelter. The four river crossing are all log footbridges, which make for easy crossing except in snowy/icy conditions.

Once you reach the Kephart Prong Shelter at 2.1 miles, you have several options detailed on the signs at the shelter. You can take the Grassy Branch Trail that climbs to the Dry Sluice Gap Trail, and then onto the Appalachian Trail. Another possibility is to take the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail up to the Appalachian Trail, and then back to Newfound Gap where you can either try to hitch a ride back to your car or have another car parked there so you can get back to your car at the trailhead. Both of these options are more strenuous as they are entirely uphill.

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  3.8 from 4 votes


in Oconaluftee


  3.8 from 4 votes
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50 Views Last Month
1,901 Since Sep 4, 2015



The Kephart Shelter is a fantastic place to lay your head after a long day.
Feb 21, 2017 near Cherokee, NC
The Oconaluftee River running under the bridge as you leave the trailhead.
Jan 20, 2016 near Cherokee, NC
Mossy rocks in the river.
Jan 20, 2016 near Cherokee, NC
Narrow bridge over the river.
Jan 20, 2016 near Cherokee, NC
View of the surrounding mountains at the Kephart Shelter.
Jan 20, 2016 near Cherokee, NC
Log bridge crossing the Oconaluftee River on the Kephart Prong Trail. All river crossings on this trail are like this except for the initial river crossing, which is a large bridge.
Jan 20, 2016 near Cherokee, NC


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