Big Creek Trail tells story of logging before GSMNP created

April 22, 2019

FOTS Big Creek Trail hiking group

The FOTS March Classic Hike of the Smokies was Big Creek Trail. The trail leader was Jack Case, a life-long resident of the Maggie Valley. Jack shares insights about the area and the hike in this blog post.

by Jack Case

The first Classic Hike with Friends of the Smokies for 2019 took place on March 12 at Big Creek.

The day was cool enough, and we were lucky to have some sun.

The hike was 4.3 miles with an elevation change of 600 feet as we hiked to the bridge and back out.

Big Creek is one of the busiest areas of the park in the summer months. The Big Creek area combines camping, hiking, swimming at Midnight Hole, and horse camps.

Trail is remains of logging company railroad line

Mouse Creek Falls

Big Creek Trail is what remains of logging company railroad lines.

The trail is a horse trail, which means horses have the right of way.

The trail follows the grade up past Mouse Creek Falls to the first bridge, which is where we had lunch and took a group picture. (See photo at top of this blog post.)

The railroad grade goes left at the bridge where the main trail goes right on to Walnut Bottoms and campsite #36 and #37.

Lunch on Big Creek Trail hike

Hikers enjoyed lunch along Big Creek.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the GSMNP was formed, lumber companies bought up much of the property and employed many of the locals who had had moved in and settled here.

A narrow gauge railroad steam locomotive pulled logs out of the park, down to the lumber mill located where the parking lot now is located.

You can see the remaining foundation next to the parking lot, and you can also see remains of the mill close to the picnic area.

Recent rains enhanced water views

The hikers enjoyed the views of the Midnight Hole, which is very popular for swimming, Bettis Branch and Mouse Creek Falls, which had lots of water due to the recent rains, and the scenic views of Big Creek itself.


Thanks to Linda Spangler for providing photos from the hike. You can see more photos of the Big Creek Hike on FOTS Facebook page.

Classic Hikes support Trails Forever

The Classic Hikes of the Smokies are the second Tuesday of the month through December. Each Classic Hike is $20 for FOTS members and $35 for new and renewing members, which includes a one-year membership. 

The May hike is on May 14, in the historic Cataloochee Valley, including Big Fork Ridge, Caldwell Fork and Rough Fork Loop. The 9.4-mile hike is considered difficult. You must register in advance.

The Classic Hikes of the Smokies series is a fundraiser for Trails Forever, a partnership between Friends of the Smokies and the National Park Service.

Trails Forever funds a full-time trail crew to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails. In November, the crew completed the two-year restoration of Rainbow Falls Trail and now is restoring Trillium Gap Trail.

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