September 06, 2022
As you probably know, the Smoky Mountains are filled with history. From historical buildings and old homesites to a spooky ghost town, there is so much to learn about the Smokies. Many of these historical sites can be found on different hikes throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Here are 5 hiking trails that feature a piece of Smoky Mountain history:
One of the many historical trails in the Smokies is Metcalf Bottoms Trail, which is 1.2 miles roundtrip. The short distance and slight elevation gain make this a great hike for the entire family. During the adventure, you will come across two distinct historical buildings that tell the amazing story of the youth in the Smokies. First, Little Greenbrier School is located at the end of the trail and can be toured by visitors to the area. The cabin was built in 1882 and was used as both a schoolhouse and a church building for over 50 years. As you tour the inside today, you can still see old wooden desks and a chalkboard that was used to teach children how to read and write. You can also visit the homesite of the Walker Sisters, who became famous by refusing to give us their childhood home after the National Park Service purchased the land.
Along the Rich Mountain Loop Trail in Cades Cove, you will come across one of the most visited historic buildings in the Smokies. The John Oliver Cabin was once the home of John and Lucretia Oliver, who were the first permanent European settlers in Cades Cove. They moved to the area back in the 1820s, before there was even a working grist mill. While life was hard for the Olivers, they laid the groundwork for all the settlers that would move to the area in the coming years. When you visit the cabin today, you will be amazed by the incredible architecture, as the building is held together by nothing except notched corners and gravity! In addition to the cabin, Rich Mountain Loop Trail features a ton of natural beauty, including a magnificent waterfall.
If you love Smoky Mountain history, you don’t want to miss the hike along Twin Creeks Trail. The hike covers 4.5 miles roundtrip and features a ton of amazing views and history. If you begin at the southern end of the trail, you will get to see the Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin. The building was constructed in the 1880s and it features a saddle-bag design, meaning two buildings are connected by a common chimney. The two cabins were built roughly five years apart, as the second was added on later to accommodate Noah’s growing family. You can also take a detour on the Twin Creeks Trail to visit the famous hidden gem known as the House of the Fairies.
For those looking for a short afternoon hike, Fighting Creek Trail is a great option! The hike is only 1.2 miles roundtrip and can easily be completed in a short amount of time. It is also located close to Gatlinburg, leaving you plenty of time to explore the Parkway after the hike. Along the path, you can take a look inside the John Ownby Cabin, which was built in 1860. The structure is common to what you would have typically seen constructed during this time with one room and walls made with pine white logs. The cabin was restored in 1964 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Every building on this list is protected by the National Park and receives maintenance when needed.
The Low Gap Trail is the most common path to reach the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower. The famous lookout was built by the brave young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) beginning in 1937. It was meant to be an outpost where people could scan the surrounding areas for forest fires. The craziest fact about the tower is that each of the stones is uniquely shaped, and some of them weigh upwards of 600 pounds! Today, you can visit the fire tower to soak in an amazing view of the Smoky Mountains!
Now that you know about some trails that hold a piece of Smoky Mountain history, check out some of the people who helped shape the Smokies into what it is today! We look forward to seeing you soon in the Smoky Mountains!