Big Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – February 16, 2013
Location: Big Creek
Distance: 2.5 miles, round trip.
Weather: Clear; 20 degrees.
Gear: Vasque Bitterroot Boots (Break-in day hike.) Baselayers, MH Warlow softshell pants, Marmot fleece, TNF Hardshell jacket.
Looking for a short, easy day hike to start breaking in my new Vasque Bitterroot boots, I found Big Creek Trail, which is accessed from the Big Creek picnic area on the Eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Trail follows a graded road built by the CCC in the mid 1930′s, and rises steadily, yet gently, from 1750 feet at the trailhead up to 3100 feet at the junction with Camel Gap trail and Campsite #37 (5.9 miles.) I only went 1.25 miles up the trail, which is about 2100 feet.
The ground and trees were still covered with snow from the day before, the roads and trail were clear but still very wet.
The trail starts just a few feet above Big Creek in the picnic area, but quickly rises high above it very early in the trail, offering fantastic views through the snow covered trees.
Big Creek then winds its way West towards the trail, until at .6 miles, the creek is almost directly below the trail:
About one mile up the trail, strong gusts drove the lingering snow from the branches across the trail. With the sun blazing behind it, the image was ethereal:
Shortly after this the sun was getting pretty low and I turned back to be sure to return to the parking lot before dark.
On the way down, I snapped this shot of the Tuliptrees silhouetted against the sky: