Bote Mountain was made for serious hikers who want to access the Appalachian Trail, but it’s also in a convenient spot for folks who want a sturdy hike without driving deep into the national park. The trail is known for beautiful wildflowers and birdwatching, but also for being very challenging. The path is steep and rocky in parts, but you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring views along the ridge.
What Makes It Great
Bote Mountain is a solid day of hiking on it’s own, but since it connects to four other trails, you don’t have to tackle the whole thing in one fell swoop. It’s easy enough to break off onto other trails and save the higher elevations for another time. However, if it’s a challenge you want, Bote Mountain is a great option, and since it’s located near the entrance of the GSMNP, the drive from town to trail is short.
Bote Mountain Trail leads hikers on a seven-mile trek up its namesake to where the path intersects with the Appalachian Trail. With more than 3,500 feet of elevation gain, it’s a steady trek uphill (though you get the downhill on the way back!). Parts of the trail are very rocky, so make sure you wear proper footwear.
From that point, hang a left to Rocky Top on Thunderhead Mountain or a right to go up to Spence Field, an open space with 360-degree views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Four other trails feed into (or break off from) Bote Mountain prior to reaching the AT—Finley Cane Trail, West Prong Trail, Lead Cove Trail, and Anthony Creek Trail—which makes for an efficient connector to traipse and cover a big area.
The Anthony Creek Trail makes its way to the popular Cades Cove area of the park, and West Prong Trail takes hikers to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The West Prong Trail will lead you to creek crossings and the West Prong of the Little River, where you’ll find a backcountry campsite.
Be prepared for any inclement weather that could roll in at the higher elevations, and make sure you wear appropriate hiking gear.
Who is Going to Love It
Any hiker who wants a challenge, but doesn’t want to travel too far into the backcountry, will appreciate Bote Mountain for its elevation and rocky, dry waterbed path. More adventurous backpackers can hike to Spence Field and stay overnight in the Spence Field Shelter along the Eagle Creek Trail (permit required, no horses allowed).
For those who don’t want to go all the way to the AT, but instead want to explore the base of the mountain, Anthony Creek Trail connects to the Cades Cove picnic area while the West Prong Trail takes hikers to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Townsend, Tennessee, follow U.S. 321/Lamar Alexander Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance. Take Townsend Entrance Road to the Townsend Wye and turn right on Laurel Creek Road.
Parking is limited to two or three vehicles on the side of the road at the Bote Mountain Trailhead, but there’s a parking lot about 200 yards south on Laurel Creek Road at the Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead.
The trail is for hikers and horseback riders only.