Meigs Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With the perpetual crowd at The Sinks location in the Smokies, it was surprising to me that hardly anyone hikes this trail that starts at the popular waterfall along Little River Road. Another surprise was the abundance of spring ephemeral wildflowers found along the trail. I counted more than a dozen varieties, and plenty of each. Once you reach Meigs Creek, it’s time to change to your water shoes as you will be crossing the creek frequently. My brother and I hiked Meigs Creek Trail to the first crossing on Tuesday, April 17, 2019 beginning at 2:30PM and finishing about 4:45PM. Our plan was to take the trail to Upper Meigs Falls, then return.

Total Length: 3.7 miles Hike Duration: 2.25 hours

Hike Rating: Moderate. Some uphill that will test you. Otherwise, not too bad.

Hike Configuration: Out and back Blaze: None needed

Elevation Start: 1,575 feet Elevation Gain: 395 feet

Trail Condition: Quite good. A few roots and rocks. Wet creek crossing.

Starting Point: On the right (west) side of The Sinks parking area.

Trail Traffic: We encountered two other hikers on this Spring Break weekday.

How to Get There: Head to The Sinks, 12 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center, or 6 miles east of the Townsend Y on Little River Road. Parking for about 15 cars.

 

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There are a couple of nature trails that take off from The Sinks parking area, so be sure you aren’t starting out the wrong direction. Meigs Creek Trail is on the west side, beyond the stone overlook. It is clearly marked with a Park Service trail sign. It starts up a fancy stone stairway, then levels out as it enters the forest.

And a nice forest it is, oaks and maples mostly, beginning the spring greening on this beautiful mid-April day. Soon, on your left, you will reach a swampy area that once was the channel for Meigs Creek prior to the logging days of the early 20th century.

You make a sharp right turn and begin the ascent of a ridge of Curry He Mountain. The trail is lined with christmas fern and dog hobble, and hundreds of early spring wildflowers. Look for violets and chickweed, dwarf iris and foamflower, lots and lots of purple phacelia, toothwort and bellwort, and plenty of white trillium.

The sounds of Little River below to the right become more muted as you near the top of the initial 400 foot climb. The plentiful mountain laurel that lines the trail will be in full bloom in May, and huckleberry bushes provide a nice late summer snack. Short leaf and white pines mix with the oaks and maples to provide a nice canopy of shade to relieve you from the climb.

Just a warning: Adopt-a-Trail volunteers say they’ve spotted timber rattlers on the sunny spots in warm weather, though that was not our experience in April.

Upon reaching the crest of the ridge, the trail turns east and begins a modest descent, before turning to the south for its arrival at Meigs Creek. This is the first of 18 stream crossings… yes, 18. Have you been practicing your rock hopping? Hopefully so, because you will sure need it.

The crossings are all easy in low water, less so at moderate levels, and may require water shoes and rolled up pants following a rainy period. The latter is what we encountered, and we weren’t prepared with appropriate footwear, mainly because we kinda added this trail on the fly after hiking elsewhere earlier in the day.

So we turned around at this point, but I will be back with my trusty MacKenzie’s in the future to explore the rocky walls and narrow valley that are further upstream. There is also a waterfall up there.

Summarizing Meigs Creek Trail, use this hike to fill a couple hours as far as the first creek crossing like we did, or continue to the end for a seven mile round trip. It’s a surprisingly nice wildflower hike in April. Combine that with spring greening for a very colorful venue. If you wish to continue through the 18 creek crossings, either go during the dry season, or bring appropriate shoes and perhaps a hiking pole.

 

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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