Spring Hike through the Elkmont Ghost Town
We are the Noe‘s, avid hikers and adventure loving travelers. Spring has finally arrived here in East Tennessee so that makes this the perfect time to take a hike! We decided to check out the Elkmont Ghost Town and trails, we heard they had a ghost town that was left empty by what was once known as the town “Little River”. At one time this town was used as a resort for the wealthiest of visitors in the Smokies. Elkmont was discovered in the 1840’s, called the Little River due to its location on the upper Little River Valley.
Location: MC3C+95 Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Google Plus Code: Elkmont Nature Trail
We found a great bit of history regarding the Elkmont Ghost Town online! “The Little River Lumber Company was formed when Colonel Wilson B. Townsend purchased 86,000 acres of land along the river. In order to transport the timber, Colonel Townsend built a railroad that connected the riverside logging site to his company’s sawmill in Tuckaleechee Cove. The logging railway contributed to turning the town into a top vacation destination! Wealthy families in Knoxville would take the train to the Smokies for weekend getaways, and the area was eventually bought so they could set up their own resort community. It was then that the town took the name of Elkmont.” – Visit My Smokies
We really enjoyed our visit to the Elkmont Ghost Town, the first stop was the Nature Trail just before you get to the campground. Coming from Gatlinburg take US-411 from Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Drive toward Cades Cove for about 7 miles until you see a sign for Elkmont Campground. About 4 miles down the road, take a left at the sign for Elkmont Nature Trail, where you’ll find a parking lot. The trailhead is right off this parking lot. The Nature Trail is .8 miles, a short round-about style trail. Relatively easy trail, although for little ones it does get a little rocky and some of the tree roots follow across the trail. Always use caution when taking little ones on any hike. The Nature trail can be completed quickly, unless you take a million photos like we did 🙂
I’m sure if you visit the Elkmont Ghost Town and walk the Nature Trail, you will definitely find something you love! We found the most interesting tree during our hike on the Nature Trail. I’d have to say one of our favorite pictures from the trip.
Our son hiking along with us, he loved the trip to the Elkmont Ghost Town and the trail was a breeze for him.
Highlight of our trip: We found a cluster of yellow trilliums while on the Nature Trail, yellow trillium is a species of flowering plant in the bunchflower family native to the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas.
You can see reminisce of this old town all over the Nature Trail!
After our stroll through the Nature Trail we decided to explore the old ghost town, from the parking lot take a left towards another parking area just up the road. You will see parking for the campground with plenty of spaces. A much larger parking lot than the Nature Trail (so if that trail parking area is full you can just park here and walk down to the Nature Trail). From this parking lot you can hike up the road or drive if you’d prefer. We hiked up the road to the old town of Elkmont.
In 1934 The National Park was established. The NPS began purchasing land previously owned by the Little River Lumber Company. Eventually, the owners of the Elkmont cottages were asked to sell their land. Over 70 buildings stood in the park with nobody to maintain them. They began to deteriorate and turned into what is known as the “Elkmont Ghost Town” in the Smoky Mountains.
In 2018, the National Park demolished some of the buildings in Elkmont. The protected buildings that still stand are currently being preserved and restored to their previous states. During our trip we got to walk through several of the cottages that the Nation Park Service had already remodeled. This area is really busy with many tourists that like to walk through the houses.
After we checked out the ghost town, we walked up the hill towards the old Elmont Cemetery. Simple walk up a gravel road and so much beauty to see in this area. From the parking lot you have several choices including 3 different trailheads.
We decided to venture down the Little River trailhead, if you follow this path you will run into the Little River! This was such a beautiful spot, amazing place for a picnic or just hanging out. Don’t forget: Leave no trace 🙂
The Little River Trail is about 4.9 miles round trip. Little River Trail follows an old logging road used by the Little River Lumber Company in the early 1900s. Along the trail you’ll see evidence of the past logging operations, including railroad rails and steel cables. Lots of really cool sites and tons of history!
Don’t forget to check out the Little River before you head out! Peak hiking times are spring for the wildflowers and fall for the foliage.
We really enjoyed our trip to Elkmont this past weekend and will definitely be heading back soon! We may even head back for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park annual synchronous firefly viewing event in June. This event is hosted in Elkmont and many other areas of the park. This behavior was officially documented here in 1993 and the Elkmont area has since become a popular destination for firefly viewing.
For the little ones this is a great stop and plenty of space to explore, the ghost town and the nature trail are easily accessible, we would rate this trail a 4 on our little ones travel scale. Enjoy your trip and share your pictures with us on Facebook! If you would like to visit more abandoned places in the Smokies check out our trip to the John Messer barn here!
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