This is the first hiking trail visitors come to when entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Townsend, Tennessee, which makes Chestnut Top Trail easily accessible to anyone looking to hike the western edge of the park.
Chestnut Top Trail is the first hiking trail that you’ll come to when entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Townsend, Tennessee. This moderate trail starts out with a solid climb, and then takes you through the forest to some amazing views of the town and the surrounding Smokies. Conveniently located across from the Townsend Wye, a popular summertime swimming spot, Chestnut Top is a great first hike for those looking to tackle trails on the western edge of the park.
What Makes It Great
The best feature of Chestnut Top Trail is undoubtedly its location, particularly when the weather is warmer. What better way to end a long hike in the summer than by cooling off in a swimming hole? The Townsend Wye (named after the ‘Y’ at the intersection of Lamar Alexander Parkway and Little River Road) is also one of the best spots to access tubing or kayaking on the Little River. Even if it’s too cool to swim, the Wye is worth a stop for taking a couple photos or simply relaxing beside the rushing water.
Located just a few miles outside of Townsend, Tennessee, getting to Chestnut Top Trail couldn’t be easier. There’s a paved parking lot right next to the trailhead, and then you’ll start with a steep, narrow climb. After about a half-mile of steady work, the path evens out and opens up, revealing incredible views of Townsend as it leads to the highest western crest of the Great Smoky Mountains. Once you tackle that first steep climb, the rest of the trail is a moderate walk flush with wildflowers and mountain laurel. The majority of the trail is heavily shaded as it leads to Bryant Gap and views of Thunderhead Mountain, and eventually to the intersection of Scott Mountain Trail and Schoolhouse Gap.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking to enjoy both a substantial hike and access to a river will enjoy Chestnut Top Trail. Though the first half-mile may challenging for little ones or inexperienced hikers, it’s an ideal trail for folks who want to increase their lung capacity and stretch their mileage.
If you love spring and summer wildflowers, Chestnut Top Trail will not disappoint, so bring your camera!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Townsend, Tennessee, follow U.S. 321/Lamar Alexander Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance. From there drive half a mile to the Townsend Wye parking area. The Little River is on the left, the trailhead on the right. The trail is still accessible when Laurel Creek Road (from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove) is closed.