February 26, 2023
This loop is a power punch of fun. With the rain abating and the weather cloudy, but warm, it was the perfect day to get some big mileage in the Smoky’s. I started at the Cooper Road Trail off Cade’s Cove Road. I had already hiked this trail, but I had to retrace it to hike Beard Cane Trail. Beard Cane is an amazing little trail. It’s just about the straightest path in the park but be prepared to get those shoes wet. I lost count of the number of creek crossings. There were no dry shoes on this day since it was pointless to take them off at every creek. There must have been 15 or so. Hiking with Lone Peaks makes it easier, as they dry out relatively quickly.
Word to the wise regarding Beard Cane: I would not hike this trail with shorts in the summer. It is an extended, low-lying holler with tons of water. It would get overgrown and snaky in a heartbeat. You wouldn’t be able to swing a cat without hitting a copperhead in the right time of year. I’m glad that I grabbed it on this day because it was an extremely gorgeous trail.
There are two “bigger” creek crossings near campsite #3. If there had been a deluge in the past 24 hours, I would exercise greater caution, but these crossings were nowhere as strong as say Noland Creek or Gunter Fork.
Ace Gap Trail is nice ridge walking near the park boundary with some views of the valley near Townsend, Tennessee and homes that run right up to the national park. At the end of Ace, the trail wallops up Rich Mountain, 1,500’ in a little over 2 miles. At the end if campsite #5. Beware, that site would be hard to find a level spot; it slopes downward. From there, I finished Indian Grave Gap Trail (that I started the previous day) and walked back to the car via Rich Mountain Road.
Total mileage is 22.5 miles.