Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tricorner Loop 

A peak bagger's dream, this 31-mile Smokies backpack loops across forested ridgelines, offering the opportunity to tag eight 6,000-foot summits along the way.

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Author: tamletsgo
Date: 25 Sep 2009 3:22:08 AM
Activity: Hiking
State: North Carolina (NC)
Distance: 30.79 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 10365 ft
Total Loss: 10365 ft
Net Change: 0 ft
Difficulty: 9 / 10
USGS Topo Map: Bunches Bald, Luftee Knob, Mount Guyot, Smokemont
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

Departing from Round Bottom on the Beech Gap Trail; this 31-mile loop affords backpackers the opportunity to bag 8 of the Carolina Mountain Club’s South Beyond 6,000 peaks (there are 40 total). But before you tag ‘em you’ll have to earn them; the first 3.3 miles of this trip gain over 2,500 feet of elevation to the Laurel Gap shelter. From here on out, the elevation profile is more moderate (with a few spikes on each of the summit climbs—which are all optional off trail out-and-backs).

From Laurel Gap, head up to tag the Big Cataloochee Mountain summit or continue the counterclockwise loop as it treks along the Balsam Moutain Trail following a ridgeline through a mossy deciduous forest peppered with mountain laurel and rhododendron. 14 miles in, the route syncs with the Appalachian Trail (along the North Carolina/Tennessee border). Stop for the evening at the Tricorner Knob Shelter; the next day, backtrack north on the AT to tackle optional summit approaches to Tricorner Bald, Mount Guyot, and Old Black, or continue the loop heading southwest on the AT.

At Peck’s Corner, the route turns off the AT onto the Hughes Ridge Trail. Foolw that to the Enloe Creek Trail and consider spending another night in the Smokies along the creek at the Enloe Creek Shelter. From there, it’s 4 miles back to Round Bottom to finish the loop.

-Mapped by Scott Sanders,

TO TRAILHEAD: From the Visitors Center on US-441, head north on Big Cove Rd After crossing Raven Fork around the 9 mile mark, go R on Straight Fork Rd. Continue as Straight Fork turns into a gravel FS road. Continue on the gravel road to Round Bottom and Beech Gap Trail.

Position Format: Datum:

Tricorner Loop

Distance: 30.79 mi Points: 1777
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest


Location: 35.624109, -83.211394 Altitude: 973.4533691
Begin hiking north on the Beech Gap Trail, and just ahead bear right at the first 3-way junction. The route begins climbing immediately, gaining 3,000 feet over the next 5 miles up to Big Cataloochee Mountain.


Location: 35.646361, -83.202068 Altitude: 1546.6350098
Turn left @ 3-way junction onto the Balsam Mountain Trail; the route continues a stiff climb toward Laurel Gap.


Location: 35.665370, -83.187771 Altitude: 1667.0393066
Arrive at the Laurel Gap shelter; after 2,600 feet of climbing you may be ready for a break. The Balsam Mountain Trail continues heading northeast.


Location: 35.667355, -83.186464 Altitude: 1663.6745605
To tack on a 2-mile out-and-back bushwhack up to Big Cataloochee Mountain, turn right. Otherwise, turn left to head northwest and continue the loop.


Location: 35.667432, -83.180340 Altitude: 1685.5446777
Turn left off trail to head uphill for the Big Catahoochee summit.


Location: 35.672231, -83.175781 Altitude: 1879.0083008
Tag Big Cataloochee Mountain, a South Beyond 6,000 summit and then backtrack to waypoint 4 to continue the counterclockwise loop.


Location: 35.677726, -83.191896 Altitude: 1692.9946289
Turn left @ 3-way junction to continue hiking the Balsam Mountain Trail along the ridgeline. The views on this stretch are better than what you'll get atop many of the wooded summits on this trek.


Location: 35.689878, -83.213977 Altitude: 1792.9709473
A right turn off the trail leads up to Luftee Knob, another 6,000-foot summit. Tackle the .4-mile detour or continue northwest along the Balsam Mountain Trail.


Location: 35.692690, -83.215100 Altitude: 1897.2731934
Luftee Knob: Tag the summit and then backtrack to waypoint 8 to continue northwest on the Balsam Mountain Trail.


Location: 35.691183, -83.248862 Altitude: 1782.8771973
To tackle a burly 2.1-mile off-trail out-and back to Mark's Knob, turn left at this 3-way intersection. Otherwise, continue bearing right to head toward the Tricorner Knob Shelter. (a 6,000Right at a three way intersection takes you to Tri Corner.


Location: 35.679889, -83.248515 Altitude:
The third 6,000-foot summit of the trip.


Location: 35.694456, -83.256534 Altitude: 1823.0119629
Turn left @ 3-way intersection onto the white-blazed Appalachian Trail as it follows the North Carolina/Tennessee border. From here, the top of Tricorner Knob is accessible via a .3-mile, off-trail route to waypoint 13. Turning right at this junction follows the optional 5.3-mile detour to tag Mount Guyot and Old Black (two more 6,000-foot summits).


Location: 35.695722, -83.254363 Altitude: 1886.2182617
Tricorner Knob summit.


Location: 35.693663, -83.257217 Altitude: 1802.1032715
Turn left off the AT for a short walk to the Tricorner Knob Shelter


Location: 35.693918, -83.256721 Altitude: 1757.6428223
The Tricorner Knob Shelter.


Location: 35.687871, -83.268728 Altitude: 1897.5134277
A right turn off of the trail heads up a short, steep climb to the top of Mountain Chapman (waypoint 17).


Location: 35.686808, -83.271099 Altitude: 1957.8359375
Mount Chapman: Another 6,000-foot off-trail summit. Backtrack to waypoint 16 to continue the loop.


Location: 35.674620, -83.283692 Altitude: 1861.4643555
The Top of Mount Sequoyah is about 15 feet to the north of the trail in a beaten down spot.


Location: 35.655249, -83.308426 Altitude: 1700.6850586
Turn left on the Hughes Ridge Trail @ the 3-way intersection at Pecks Corner. The Appalachian Trail continues to the right.


Location: 35.629691, -83.304730 Altitude: 1557.4499512
Turn left @ 3-way junction to continue along the Hughes Ridge Trail


Location: 35.608780, -83.281345 Altitude: 1480.064209
Turn left onto the Enloe Creek Trail at this 3-way intersection.


Location: 35.609912, -83.254952 Altitude:
Cross the creek and continue past the Enloe Creek Campground.


Location: 35.612875, -83.243011 Altitude: 1346.9226074
Turn right @ 3-way junction to continue on the Enloe Creek Trail.


Location: 35.608685, -83.223307 Altitude: 915.5341797
Turn left on the gravel road and continue another 1.5 miles back to the Beech Gap Trailhead.

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