Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pretty Hollow Gap Trail

After a couple days of rain and sitting around the house, we were anxious to get outside.  The one trail left in the Cataloochee Valley that I wanted to do before we leave the area is Pretty Hollow Gap.

Lots of water in Pretty Hollow Creek
This is a 5.6-mile one way trail which rises from the valley to Mount Sterling Ridge.  Our parking lot was a short quarter-mile from the large Cataloochee horse camp.

The first 1.6 miles of the trail is the same as we did last week when we hiked the Palmer Creek Trail.  The trail is along an old road bed as it follows Pretty Hollow Creek upstream.  At 0.8 miles we passed the Little Cataloochee Trail junction and at 1.6 miles we passed the Palmer Creek Trail.
Horse corrals at campsite 39
Shortly past the junction with Palmer Creek we came to backcountry campsite 39.  Since Pretty Hollow Creek Trail allows horses this campsite has horse corrals installed for those overnight guests.  There are also a couple of pulley systems for hanging food out of the reach of critters.  These pulley systems are at all backcountry campsites and shelters in the Smokies.
Backcountry pulley system
After this, the trail narrows and begins the climb to the ridge.  We followed Pretty Hollow Creek upstream for about 4 miles with four crossings.  Two of these crossings were on foot bridges and two were on the rocks.  There were also areas of the trail that were pretty wet.  We were sorta wishing it hadn’t been raining for the past 24 hours.
Water running down the trail
After the last crossing we turned away from the creek and pushed on up to the Gap.  We started our hike in hardwood forest and, as we gained in elevation, we passed through rhododendron, pine, and what’s left of the hemlock.  Near the top the forest changed to spruce and fir.  Not only did the forest change, but as we gained elevation we started seeing the early spring wildflowers again.
Finally, the Gap

Pretty Hollow Gap was a welcome sight after that climb.  The gap was like a busy intersection where three trails come together.  We found a log to sit on and took a long lunch break.

We retraced our steps for our trip back down to the car.  I think I was happier to see the car than to get to the Gap.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Hope Gene didn't all into the gap. Looks like Pretty Hollow Creek is full of water after all the rains...I bet hearing the rushing water was very relaxing.
    I had not seen such tall pulley systems before...
    Glad you had a good hike.

  2. Looked pretty wet along that trail. Nice pics.

  3. Looks wonderful - was anything missing?? Jealous!! Headed to Abrams Fall today. Hoping to see Bleeding Hearts and GayWings.

    1. Nothing missing that I know of. One of the stream crossings was very difficult because the water was so high; under dryer conditions it would have been an easy rock hope.

      I love the Abrams Falls hike. The falls should really be full of water with all the rain this week. Good luck finding the Bleeding Hearts and Gay Wings. We saw them a month ago.