Deep Creek Loop
ElevationAscent: 847' 258 m
Descent: -854' -260 m
High: 2,379' 725 m
Low: 1,828' 557 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)
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“If you're hoping to see the highlights of the park in a shorter loop, this route is for you!”— Ken Wise
Start your journey on the Deep Creek Trail. The beginning of this trail is fairly relaxed, and you'll find yourself meandering through dense forests that closely follow Deep Creek. Before long, the babble of the creek will turn to a roar, and you'll know that you're approaching Tom Branch Falls. This first waterfall is 60 ft. in height, and the sight is one that's well worth stopping for. Enjoy the views and the cacophonous sound of the waterfalls before moving on.
As you continue down the Deep Creek Trail, you'll notice that crowds begin to thin. Take in the lush forest around you as you continue on to an intersection with the Indian Creek Trail. Take a right onto the Indian Creek Trail, where shortly after you'll be able to see Indian Creek Falls. This waterfall is about 25 ft in height and is more of a cascade than a single fall. This creates an equally dramatic scene as the Tom Branch Falls, and offers something different for runners working their way along the full route. Once you've thoroughly enjoyed the falls, continue on the Indian Creek Trail.
As you continue, you'll notice that the crowds melt away, and you'll be left with serene Great Smoky solitude instead. Take your time and enjoy the sounds of Indian Creek as you continue on your way. Soon enough, you'll come to an intersection with the Loop Trail, where you'll turn left to being heading northwest.
While the bottom portion of the Loop Trail is lush with creek-side vegetation, you'll notice that the local flora begins to change as you climb away from the creek. Take note of the beautiful wildflowers along the way before the area becomes too dry to support them. You'll be climbing through this portion of the run, so expect your heart rate to rise. The trail is well maintained, however, so footing won't be a problem.
Eventually, the trail will dead-end at an intersection with the Deep Creek Trail. You'll again be nearing Deep Creek, and you can expect the vegetation to change accordingly. Descend the Deep Creek Trail by turning left and heading southwest. The trail will continue to be easy to navigate, and this is an enjoyable route. Take in the sounds of falling waters.
When the trail comes to an intersection with the Deep Creek Horse Trail, take it as it heads west (to the right). This wide doubletrack is quite pleasant to navigate, and you'll be able to enjoy running along the way while also taking in the forest around you. Especially spectacular in the fall, you won't have to keep such a close eye on your footing, allowing you to take in sweeping views. Soon, you'll come upon the Juney Whank Falls. This loop saves the best for last, and you won't be disappointed by this spectacular waterfall! With two main drops, Juney Whank Falls is nearly 90 ft in total. There is a scenic footbridge located at the juncture of the two portions of the fall, and this is an excellent place to stop for photos.
Once you've had your fill of the waterfall, continue heading south on the Juney Whank Falls Trail, which will end at the trailhead and your vehicle.
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.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park