Total Miles Hiked: 8.6
Elevation Gained: 1800'
Well school starts again in about a week so I wanted to get in one more hike. The Little Greenbrier Trail runs from the Metcalf Bottoms entrance of the Smokies along the northern boundary of the park and then up the side of a ridge to Cove Mountain where it intersects with the Laurel Falls Trail.
It's been a cold week here in Tennessee, and today looked like the best weather to get out - highs around 30 degrees, but bright and sunny. The trail rises about 400' in elevation over the first 1.9 miles, and then another 1400' over the last 2.4 miles. It's a good trail though - well graded and never really steep. There was a dusting of snow as I started up and on the south-facing slopes it nearly disappeared, but the higher I went the more snow there was. Probably 3-4" by the time I got to the top.
The first part of the trail skirts the northern park boundary and you can look out to the north and see down into Wear's Valley.
You can occasionally see the park boundary markers, and the first part of the trail is actually outside of the park in a few places.
When I started my hike this morning I was the first one on the trail since the last snow probably 2 or 3 days ago. That is until I realized the wildlife are also using the trail. This is a set of turkey tracks that were perfectly preserved in the snow.
This was my first view of my ultimate destination: Cove Mountain (actually the Laurel Falls trail junction is 0.9 miles south of the Cove Mtn. summit). It was a little intimidating to look up from the bottom of the trail and realize that I would be climbing up that.
The first trail junction I came to was the Little Greenbrier Trail-Little Brier Gap Trail intersection (1.9 miles from the trailhead). The trails in the Smokies are incredibly well marked. Every intersection has a sign with the trail names and mileage for nearby places. I met a group from the Wednesday Morning Hiking Club here. From here the trail started to seriously gain elevation (and snow). There were a few downed trees from the snow, but for the most part the trail was quite passable.
Here's a view of Cove Mtn. from about 1/2 way up the trail.
I need to improve my self-portrait skills...
Pictures can hardly begin the capture the beauty of the Smokies in the snow. Every tree was covered with a thin layer of snow that was slowly drifting down to the ground. It looked like it was constantly lightly snowing.
Higher up the snow got deeper. Usually in the Smokies you think about hiking through a "green tunnel" of Laurel & Rhododendron. This time of year it's more like a "green & white tunnel"
This was my final destination: junction of the Little Greenbrier Trail with the Laurel Falls Trail. It was an amazingly beautiful hike - I love the Smokies in the snow.
I'll leave you with this one final picture: