Plenty of roots on this trail that can be bad for ankles and knees.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 4.9 miles west along the Little River Road to the turnoff for the Elkmont Campground. Turn left into Elkmont, and go 1.4 miles to the campground, turning left and driving another 0.6 miles to the parking area for the Cucumber Gap Loop
The turnoff for the Elkmont Campground will be 12.6 miles away from the Townsend Y on the Little River Road.
This trail highlights the history and wildness of the Great Smoky Mountains. At the trailhead, you'll see a lot of dilapidated houses, that were used as summer homes for families from Knoxville. Most of the cottages were build by the early 1920s, before the land became part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As part of the agreement for the land to become part of the national park, families were offered long term leases, the last ones expiring in 2001. Some of the homes are being repaired, but most are off limits to the public due to structural problems. It's a fascinating look at what the area looked like before it became a national park.
Parking at the Jakes Creek Trail
parking lot in Elkmont, head about .4 miles past the dilapidated summer homes. Roughly .3 miles past the homes, Cucumber Gap Trail veers off to the left leaving Jakes Creek Trail
behind. The trail narrows at this point and turns into a true footpath as it gains 500 feet of elevation in the first mile.
You'll be working your way along the trail, under a diverse hardwood forest or rhododendron, laurel, and magnolia trees. There are plenty of roots and rocks on the trail, so be careful where you step. As you ascend to Cucumber Gap, you'll pass Tulip Branch as you duck under and head past Fraser magnolias, often referred to as cucumber trees.
Once you pass through Cucumber Gap, you begin descending down toward the Little River Trail
. You need to rock hop across the Husky Branch, and then you only have .3 miles left until you get to the Little River Trail
. Once you get to the Little River Trail
, you can turn left and use that to return to your car at Elkmont (2.4 miles). The trail is wide and easy going as you descend to Elkmont.
While most views of the mountains are obstructed by the trees, this trail is very popular in the spring as a wildflower trail. During other parts of the year, you can enjoy the trail and only see one or two other people, having the woods to yourself and the wildlife.
Deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, and a wide assortment of wildflowers in the spring. Bears have been seen in the area.
Dollâ€™s Eyes, Wood Anemone, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Blue Cohosh, Speckled Wood Lily, Toothwort, Trout Lily, Wild Geranium, Liverleaf, Bishopâ€™s Cap, Creeping Phlox, May Apple, Solomonâ€™s Seal, Nodding Mandarin, Brook Lettuce, Solomonâ€™s Plume, Rue Anemone, Foamflower, Dwarf Ginseng, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Summer Bluets, Black Cohosh