Thursday, April 26, 2012

Deep Creek Loop Hike Smokey Mountains 4/7/2012

The Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is accessed from Bryson City on the North Carolina side of the park.  There are picnic and camping areas, a large parking lot, and miles of hiking trails.  We chose to hike about five miles including visits to three waterfalls.  After parking I noticed the trail head for Juney Whank Falls near where we parked.  We would return by this trail.  To start the hike we went to the back of the parking where a gravel road follows the creek.  This road is level and well maintained making this portion of the hike very easy.  We passed the second trail head for Juney Whank Falls which we would take on the return and soon came to the first falls.  Tom Branch Falls is on the right across the creek.  It is clearly visible at this time of year but is  partially hidden by growth in the summer.  When you see several benches on the right side of Deep Creek look across the creek for the falls. 

At .7 miles from the trail head we reached a fork.  This is the point where Indian Creek joins Deep Creek.  To the left is a bridge and the continuation of Deep Creek Trail.  Straight ahead is the Indian Creek Trail.  Both of these trails are still nice, mostly level gravel roads.  Little side trails at this point lead down to the creek.

 We chose to continue straight along Indian creek and do the loop counterclockwise even though most trail descriptions turn left here.  The trail climbs above the creek for a short distance.  In a few hundred feet there is a very short but more difficult side trail on the left leading down to the base of  Indian Creek Falls.

Continuing on this still mostly level trail we passed the  Stone Gap Pile Trail head.  We had been seeing a variety of small patches of  wild flowers along the trail but now we began to see hundreds of dwarf crested iris besideon the right side of the trail.  There were occasional dogwoods in bloom in the woods.  The creek had dropped away from the trail.

At the next intersection we took a left on the loop trail and began a totally different type of hiking.  The trail here is single track and climbs continuously for about half a mile.  There is a small run alongside the trail and some wild flowers.   Although not steep this area is more of a challenge.  At the top the Sunkota Ridge Trail exits to the right.   There was a decent view at the top this time of year.

Immediately the trail began to descend on the other side.  There were a few muddy spots on this side especially where there seems to be springs but no large amounts of water to cross.  We could hear the creek below long before we reached it.  At the bottom we crossed the creek on one of the good bridges found along these trails.

We were now hiking along a level gravel road again with lots of wild flowers and dogwood trees.  This road led us back to a set of two intersections and across another bridge that we had passed on the way out.  All through this hike there were good signs pointing us in the right direction.  We retraced our steps to the right turn for Juney Whank fall.

These falls are only .3 miles off of the main trail but the hill up to the falls was steep.  We went up a narrow trail to the wider horse trail.  After turning left for a very short distance we dropped down  another narrow trail section to the bridge over the falls.  There is a place here to sit and relax before the short climb back up to the horse trail.  Continuing left on the horse trail soon led to a side trail back to the parking lot.

This area offers all kind of hiking opportunities.  We could have seen all three falls with a much shorter hike.  We could have walked many more miles of single track trails.  There are several hike in campsites further out on the trails.  Small children and even strollers are appropriate on the gravel roads.  This was our first visit to this area but I doubt it will be the last.