Length: 4 miles roundtrip
Duration: 2 to 3 hours
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous/
Highest Elevation: 1,400 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 585 feet
Scenery: creek/cascades, scenic
Tops trail is one of the most well-known trails located off Newfound Gap Road
due to the panoramic views the trail offers. Though the hike is only two miles
up, it is a very steep trail that hikers can’t always complete. With the first
half of the trail being fairly easy, the second half is a 960 foot elevation
climb to reach the top.
Chimney Tops Trail Upgrades:
trail has had some major upgrades over the past two years courtesy of the
Trails Forever program. Renovations include: construction of rock steps,
renovating existing water drainage systems, creating new ones and redefining
different sections of the trail that were no longer suitable for hikers. The new bridge at the start of the trail
reopened in July of 2013.
Hiking Chimney Tops Trail:
first stretch of the trail hikers will follow cascading waters of Road Prong
Creek which crosses a few foot bridges before arriving at Beech Flats. Once
hikers reach the Beech Flats junction, which is the hikes halfway point, veer
to the right to continue on Chimney Tops trail. The left track leads to Road Prong
Trail, which leads to the Appalachian Trail at Indian Gap on Clingmans Dome Rd.
after an additional 2.5 mile hike. What’s interesting about the Road Prong
Trail is that it’s one of the oldest trails in the Smokies dating back to the
18th century, where it served as a through-road known as Indian Gap
keep to the right from Beech Flats to stay on the Chimney Tops trail. The
second half of the hike is where it starts to get difficult as the trail takes
a western curve accompanied by a 730 feet elevation climb for two-thirds of a
mile roughly. The trail then takes a northern climb up the ridge to the summit,
giving a nice view of the mountains out of the east. There is the option of
continuing up the ridge to reach the top of the pinnacles, which is another 50
feet climb. Injuries are possible so be sure proper attire is worn and avoid
the climb if the rocks are too wet.
Chimneys are one of the few peaks in the Smokies that have a bare rock summit.
When the mountains were inhabited by the Cherokees this summit was referred to
as a forked antler as the mountain resembles the antlers of a deer.
Directions to the Chimney Tops Trail:
- Take I-40 Exit 407 and follow Highway 66 South for 8 miles to 441 South
- From 441 South on Newfound Gap Road after about 6.5 miles you will pass
the Sugarlands Visitors Center, there is a parking on the right of the road
with the trailhead sign.
- Be sure to not confuse the Chimney Tops Picnic area from the trailhead.