Porters Creek Trail
December 5, 2021

Christmas Hiking Trip 2021 at Porters Creek Trail!

We are the Noe‘s, avid hikers and adventure loving travelers. We decided to hit the road and look for a trail to take just before Christmas. Christmas in Gatlinburg is always so busy with all of the lights, attractions, visitors and the Christmas Parade ramping up. We decided to find a less busy option so we headed over to Porters Creek. Porters Creek Trail is rich in history, beautiful from every angle and is going to the top of our “must go back” list! Also, don’t forget to stop at the Brown Farm on the way!

Greenbriar Road towards the parking lot at Porters Creek Trail

Location:

Google Plus Code: Porters Creek Trail

With breathtaking views of a cascading waterfall, massive trees surrounding all the trails, many historical sites and of course a beautiful creek stretching along the main trail, it’s worth the hike!

Greenbrier Road to Trailhead
Greenbrier Road to Trailhead

When you get to the main road (Greenbrier Road) that takes you back towards the Porters Creek trail trailhead you will see a few pull offs and eventually come to a parking lot. Use caution as the roadway towards the trailhead is a one lane road that is shared with traffic from both directions. Go slow and watch for other vehicles coming down the road. We parked just before the bridge and started at the main trailhead.

Porters Creek Trail Entrance
Porters Creek Trail Entrance

The trail itself is full of turn offs to other trails such as Brushy Mountain Trail, Mt Leconte and Trillium Gap Trail. Porter Creek Trail to Fern Branch Falls was the path we decided to take.

Porter Creek Trail
Porter Creek Trail
Trees of Porters Creek Trail

The trail was absolutely beautiful and the history of the old barn and cabin really was something to see. Porters Creek Trail is quite majestic!

Base of the creek near the trailhead
Base of the creek near the Porters Creek trailhead
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You will notice several really interesting historical areas including the Ownby cemetery just before you get to the barn. Please use caution in this area, stay on the path and don’t walk over the gravesite. They have a bench made of wood in front of the cemetery. You can take a minute and pay respect to the people who once thrived here.

Ownby Cemetery
Ownby Cemetery

We also stumbled upon a stone staircase that led to an open field. We later found out that that staircase was built by the original owners of the Elbert Cantrell farmstead. This entire area was once a full community of farmers.

Porters Creek
Porters Creek
Porters Creek
Porters Creek
Historic Farm Site

The John Messer Barn is located just a few hundred yards from the trailhead. The path gives you two options: you can walk along the creek and stay to the left or head right towards the barn. The barn was constructed in 1875 by Pinkney Whaley. The Whaley’s later sold their farm to John H. Messer. 

John Messer Barn
John Messer Barn
John Messer Barn
John Messer Barn

Just behind the barn you will find the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin. This cabin was built in 1934 to provide shelter to those passing through. You can look around the property and even go inside to see the sling beds still connected to the wall. This building was constructed using wood from the original farm house owned by the Whaleys in the 1930s. The Hiking Club used the Cabin until the 1980s. You can’t sleep there anymore since the site is protected but still a great site to see. There is so much history here, we really enjoyed seeing the cabin.

Google Plus Code to the Barn: MJP2+X9 Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin trail
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin
Porters Creek Canvas - Smoky Mountains, TN
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You will find a springhouse right before the Cabin. A springhouse was a small building typically used to keep spring water clean from debris and animals. Due to the cool temperature of the mountain water they were also used as an early day refrigerator, to store meat and dairy.

Springhouse right before the Cabin
Interesting tree near the front of the trailhead.

Once you are finished checking out the historical sites you’ll want to jump back on the trail and head towards the bridge. There are two bridges, the first one is kind of planted on the ground and the second bridge goes across the creek.

First bridge in the trailhead.
First bridge in the trailhead.

Unfortunately, no bikes or dogs are allowed on this trail so we had to leave our pup at home. Although, we can now understand why that would be. The terrain is rough in many areas and the bridges aren’t exactly roomie.

The terrain
Lichens growing on the side of the tree.
Lichens growing on the side of the tree. Read more here!
Partridgeberries growing through the moss, in the early days people used these berries for medicinal purposes.
Partridgeberries growing through the moss, in the early days people used these berries for medicinal purposes. Read more here!

Quick side story: Someone got a little nervous on the second bridge, if you watch the video on YouTube you’ll see who. We will probably laugh about that one for a minute. Just a helpful warning: the second bridge is much higher than the first one which has only one railing. Note of caution to those who are not a fan of heights, it’s a very narrow bridge and don’t look down!

Guess we figured out quickly who was scared of heights…lol

After you cross the bridge you will feel like you entered an enchanted forest. I know it sounds a bit dramatic but it really is a beautiful site!

Forest Floor

If you’re planning on bringing little ones on this trip keep in mind that the roots and rocks can be difficult for them to hike on. I’d say overall this is a moderate hike due to the rough terrain in some spots.

Little Ones Travel Scale
Forest Floor

When you start to ascend after the open area/forest floor you’ll be heading up towards the waterfall. Fern Branch Falls is a beautiful 50-foot waterfall, and an amazing spot to stop and take in the views. 

Trail to the waterfall

From the waterfall you can continue on to the Backcountry Camping area Campsite 31 approximately 1.7 miles from the waterfall.  Great spot if you are wanting to sleep under stars for the night, camp with whatever you can carry on your back. Also, a permit is required to camp in the National Park, we want to come back for that next time!

Looking down to the trail before the waterfall.
Giant bolder at the base of the waterfall
Fern Branch Falls
Fern Branch Falls

Thanks for joining us! Don’t forget to check out our video of the hike on Our YouTube channel. 

Fern Branch Falls

Tell us about your trip if you decide to go to Porters Creek Trail, we’d love to hear from you!

Fern Branch Falls
Till Next time!

Love,

The Noes

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