BMT: Segment 22a-b (Lakeshore Trail East)
ElevationAscent: 1,523' 464 m
Descent: -1,405' -428 m
High: 2,295' 700 m
Low: 1,731' 528 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 19% (11°)
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“The section of the Benton MacKaye Trail from Chambers Creek to Noland Creek Trail.”— Richard Harris
The famous tunnel on the Road to Nowhere is 375 yards long and made of stone and mortar in a fashion similar to the tunnels along US 441 from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. It was built in the early 1960's as part of a road that was supposed to connect Bryson City to Fontana Dam. This road was never completed due to budget difficulties, environmental issues, construction challenges and the fact that a good road already existed on the south side of the Lake.
Trail Description: From the Chambers Creek Campsite #98 at mile 219.8, the trail crosses Chambers Creek on a bridge, then leaves the lake to climb up on the lower slopes of Pilot Ridge and Pilot Knob. En route, the trail crosses Gunter Branch at mile 222.5, Jenny Branch at mile 223.1, and Glady Branch at 224.4. At mile 225.8, the trail reaches the Lower Forney Creek Campsite #74 along the edge of this fairly large creek draining the southern slopes of Clingmans Dome and Siler Bald. Also at this site the Forney Creek Trail intersects the Lakeshore Trail. Climbing this trail takes you to the parking area at Clingmans Dome after 11.4 miles in distance and several thousand feet in elevation gain. From the campsite, cross the bridge over Forney Creek, then immediately climb over a ridge and down to a branch of Forney Creek (Gray Wolf Branch). Climb another ridge to the intersection with Whiteoak Branch Trail, a connector trail to the Forney Creek Trail, at mile 226.9. Continue to mile 228.2 to the intersection with the Goldmine Loop Trail, then shortly after that intersection you come to the intersection with the Tunnel Bypass Trail, used by horses to avoid the trip through the dark tunnel. The BMT and the Lakeshore Trail go through the tunnel itself at mile 228.5, which is about a 1/4 mile long. A headlamp is recommend, but you can see the far end and the little light which travels down the tunnel may be enough to safely travel through the tunnel. Once through the tunnel you come to the parking area near the end of the Road to Nowhere at mile 228.8. Run the road to the junction with the Noland Creek Trail at mile 229.5.
Campsites: Camping is permitted at Chambers Creek Campsite #98 at mile 219.8 and the Lower Forney Creek Campsite #74 at mile 225.8 Campsite #72 is not on the BMT and can be accessed only by boat, though on maps it appears close to the BMT. Don't make the mistake of reserving this campsite for your backpack trip.
Water Sources: Water is available at both campsites from the adjoining creeks and also several small streams the trail crosses in along the way. All water should be treated.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park