Cherokee National Forest - Clemmer Trail - Hiking

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About

Summary

Beauty abounds on the Clemmer Trail, between the rhododendron and mountain laurel lining the trail, and the scenic views at the top of the gorge below and the mountains to the east.

Written by

Beth Miller

Distance

8.8 miles

Straight up to Benton Falls and back down is 8.8 miles roundtrip, but there are several other trails to connect to for a longer adventure.

Destination Distance From Downtown

38.0 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

Clemmer is a bit more challenging than its beginner-friendly counterpart, the Benton Falls trail, due to the number of creek crossings, rock gardens, and the elevation gain straight out of the trailhead parking lot.

Time To Complete

3 hours

3 - 5 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

The soil is made up of clay, sand, and gravel that dries out quickly after heavy rainfall/snow—making it ideal for any time of year.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

Yes

$3 day use fee

Land Website

Hiking Map

Review

Intro

The Cherokee National Forest (CNF) covers 655,598 acres from the eastern border of Tennessee up to Virginia in the north and down to Georgia in the south. The Chilhowee Recreation Area is in the southern section of the CNF in the Ocoee Ranger District. There are currently 19 trails in the Chilhowee network for a total of about 27 miles, ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging, offering up something for every skill level.

What Makes It Great

The Scenic Spur parking area just off of TN-30 makes accessing Clemmer easy, but be prepared for the most challenging part of the actual trail to start almost as soon as you get out of the car. The climb out of the parking area begins as a steep and wide gravel road that turns into a rocky, sandy section. These loose sections can be challenging, but you’ll be rewarded for your hard work at the top.

Once the trail levels off, the terrain becomes more hard-packed and, in some areas, even loamy. The vegetation gets denser, offering up patches of bright green moss, as the trail narrows into singletrack. Be careful and watch your foot placement—there are tons of rocks and roots here. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as deer, bears, and the occasional raccoon as you walk through the woods.

There are also a couple fun creek crossings along the way that require rock hopping. When the water is high, prepare to get your feet wet. When you get to the Benton Falls Trail intersection, make a point to venture down to the 65-foot cascade—it’s truly amazing after a big rain.

The Clemmer Trail also connects to all the other trails in the Chilhowee Trail System, so it’s easy to extend your adventure if you want to get in some more mileage.

Who is Going to Love It

While Clemmer has sections that are beginner friendly, the trail as a whole is better for intermediate to advanced hikers. Wanna really go for it? Start at the top of the mountain with the Benton Falls Trail and hike a total distance of 11.8 miles—down and back up.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Don’t confuse this trail with the Clemmer Spur Trail that also leads out of the Scenic Spur parking area. It is a 2.8-mile trail that meanders along the bottom of the gorge.

From Chattanooga: Take I-75 N to Cleveland exit 20 and go right onto US-74 E. Continue on US-74 E to US-64 E. Take the Ocoee exit heading east toward Ducktown/Copperhill/Murphy, NC. Stay on US-64 E for 17.3 miles to the US-64/TN-30 intersection. Turn left on TN-30 and the gravel parking area is on the left with a sign that reads Scenic Spur Trail.

The Chilhowee Recreation Area campground and bathhouses close in November, but a winter camping area is available with limited facilities.

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Location

Scenic Spur Trailhead

35.114176, -84.578655

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