*Quick note before getting started: Normally I like to separate trails in my blog posts, but since these 3 are done as a giant loop, it seemed easier to combine them in this post 🙂
Little River Trail
After finishing the Clingman’s Dome Trail, I took the time to have a nice lunch (baked potato, salad and sweet tea – best thing I ate all week) and then opted to hike the Cucumber Gap Loop, consisting of 3 different trails: Little River Trail, Cucumber Gap Trail and Jake’s Creek Trail. The trailhead is located beside Elkmont Campground, on the road between Sugarlands Visitor’s Center and Cades Cove.
Hikers can start via the Little River trailhead or the Jake’s Creek trailhead; I chose Little River because it was right by the parking lot and followed the river, which was a nice change of pace. The 2.4 mile one-way trail consists entirely of gravel and is a gentle slope upwards the length. A few tenths of a mile before the junction with Cucumber Gap Trail is Huskey Branch Falls – only approx. 20ft tall, but it acts as a good marker distance-wise and waterfalls are never a bad thing 🙂
At first, there were a ton of gnats and mosquitoes because of the proximity to the river, but about a half an hour after beginning, a gentle rain started falling, which eliminated the bug problem almost immediately. Insects or no insects, the river and surrounding area were beautiful, and the lack of other hikers was refreshing. In total, I only came across 8 other people on the trail – a minor miracle considering over 9 million people visit the Smokies every year. Maybe it was the rain, or maybe people don’t realize the Cucumber Gap Loop exists, but either way, I appreciated the silence, the feeling that I had the park all to myself.
Cucumber Gap Trail
This part of Cucumber Gap Loop begins shortly after coming across Huskey Branch Falls on Little River Trail. Veering away from the river, the 2.4 mile trail turns from gravel to dirt and becomes much skinnier, with trees and plant growth encroaching on each side. The trial continues upwards, like Little River, until approx halfway when it take a downward turn for the remainder of the loop.
Cucumber Gap Trail was even less traveled than Little River; I only came across one other hiker heading the opposite way – we parked at the same time and headed in opposite directions, he seemed amazed I was making better time than he was lol.
By this time, the rain had stopped completely and the humidity had skyrocketed. It was a relatively easy hike in regards to terrain and incline, but the humidity was oppressive. Thankfully I had plenty of water, otherwise I would have been miserable.
Jake’s Creek Trail
Finally, I made it to Jake’s Creek Trail, the .7 mile gravel trail that lead back to the parking lot at the trailhead. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t even tempted to head the other way on the trail: (1) I was really tired at that point and (2) there were signs posted explaining Meigs Mountain Trail (the opposite direction of the parking lot) was closed due to “aggressive bear activity.”
Cucumber Gap Trail was nice, nothing fancy, but nice. Unless you’re camping at Elkmont, most people don’t realize it exists, so if you’re looking for something less traveled and not too strenuous, this is a good hike for you.