Where: Newfound Gap, NC/TN State Line
Type of Activity: Hiking, Scenic
Newfound Gap, on Highway 441 between Cherokee and Gatlinburg, TN, is a popular stop for visitors who want to see some amazing views of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. At 5,046 feet, this parking lot is actually the lowest pass over the Great Smokey Mountains. (Clingman’s Dome, just 7 miles away from the Newfound Gap parking lot, is the highest point in the Smokies.)
Originally, the old road over the Smokies was called Indian Gap, located just 1.5 miles from the west of this spot. However, Arnold Henry Guyot, a geographer who measured many mountains in the southern Appalachians with a barometer, “found” a “new” lower elevation gap. Hence, the Newfound Gap name was born.
The famous Appalachian Trail, which straddles the NC/TN state line though much of the Smokies, crosses this point. Thus offering visitors who want to get away from the typically crowded overlook parking lot a nice chance to do so.
For this visit, we decided to hike northeast on the Appalachian Trail.
As you would imagine from a crowded parking lot, the first 0.5-1 mile of the trail can also be crowded. From the parking lot, the trail will be a fairly consistent climb to Mt. Kephart. Even in late March when these pictures were taken, the trail can still be snow covered. On average, the temperature at this elevation can be 10°F colder than the surrounding lowlands.
The views from the trail only get better the further you climb. Below, a break in the trees allows for a view back to the south.
For this specific trip, we stopped at the intersection of Sweat Heifer Creek Trail intersection due to time constraints. Some interesting features just beyond this point is the Ice Water Springs Shelter, and Charlies Bunion.