Friday, August 17, 2012

Finley Cane, Lead Cove Trails

Well, we’re back in the Smokies now after a short trip over to North Carolina to do some hiking and sightseeing in Pisgah National Forest.  That was a good trip and we enjoyed being in the motor home for a few days, even if we didn’t have hookups.  I think we’re going to look forward to our little monthly trips.  We have a little work to do to become efficient at preparing for the trip and then preparing the motor home to return to storage.  I guess more practice is needed.

The temperatures were nice and cool at 5,000 ft in Pisgah, but, surprisingly, we returned to pleasant weather in Maryville.  It may be too much to expect that we’ve turned the corner on the worst of the summer weather.  With these pleasant mornings, we’ve started looking at lower elevation hikes again.

A small area of "switch" cane for which the trail is named.
Gene is usually in charge of picking our hikes and he chose to put Finley Cane, Bote Mountain, and Lead Cove Trails together to make a loop hike of 7 miles.  The parking lot for Finley Cane and Lead Cove trails also serves Turkey Pen Ridge Trail and is located on Laurel Creek Road in the Park.  There are two single lane parking areas, one on each side of the road, which can accommodate perhaps a dozen cars.  All three of these trails are open to horses and it’s not uncommon to see horse trailers in the parking area.

We began our hike on the Finley Cane Trail.  This is a great trail for a day hike.  It’s an easy hike of 2.8 miles which only gains about 200 feet in elevation.  For the Smokies, that’s practically flat.  You have options with this trail, too.  For a little bit longer hike, you could use Bote Mountain to connect with West Prong Trail and go over to campsite 18 for a lunch break before heading back to your car.  Or, you can do like we did, and make a loop using Bote Mountain and Lead Cove.

Evidence of recent storm damage.  Trail crews have cleared
the trail of any downed trees.
I just love this trail.  It doesn’t have sweeping views, it doesn’t follow along beside a tumbling mountain stream, there is no waterfall or other feature.  It simply winds its way peacefully in and out of coves of hardwoods and rhododendron.  Perhaps that is what I love about it--a simple dirt path offering the peacefulness of the mountains.  On the cool morning we were there, it seemed like a gift from God to refresh our souls.

Bote Mountain Trail is quite the opposite.  Long ago in the early 1800s this was the path used by James Spence to herd his cattle to Spence Field for summer grazing.  Later on a road was built to connect Tennessee to the North Carolina side of the mountain.  That didn’t work out too well since the North Carolina side of the road was never finished.  The Tennessee road was kept open even after the National Park was established.  Spence Field was a popular destination during the summer and the road led almost all the way to the top.

Today, it still looks much like an old mountain dirt road.  Ugly, as trails go; and steep in places.  We had a 1000 feet to climb and 2.5 miles to walk to get to our connecting trail, so we took a short break at the junction of Finley Cane and Bote Mountain.

The first mile of our trek up Bote Mountain was steep and rocky.  We have done this trail numerous times and knew what to expect.  Even during summer, Bote Mountain trail offers the occasional view and I stopped every chance I had to make a picture and catch my breath. Fortunately for us, the only “flat” spot on Bote Mountain Trail occurs between Finley Cane and Lead Cove and after about a mile we had a mile of welcome relief from the climb.

Along the flat section of Bote Mountain Trail

Another break was in order at the junction with Lead Cove before we started down to undo that 1000 feet of climb.  Lead Cove Trail is much like Finley Cane except with the elevation change.  It’s not as relaxing as Finley Cane because it requires so much concentration whether you’re going up hill or down.  I prefer the down hill, but the steepness is hard on my knees.

Lead Cove was the short section of this hike--only 1.8 miles.  Since we had gotten an early start we were back at the car shortly after noon.  It was nice to hike at Pisgah for a change of pace, but I was glad to be back on the trial in the Smokies.

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


  1. Looks like a wide variety in your two hikes. I too love just being in the woods. It's a wonderful way to unwind. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Funny, I almost suggested Finley Cane for Wednesday, but I'd already done it twice this year! It is one of my absolute favorite trails for all the reasons you mention. Love doing it in the winter and you can almost always get to it! I think a dislike of Bote Mountain Trail is pretty much universal among those who regularly hike in the Smokies!!

    1. We'll put Finley Cane on our list for this winter. Remind me so I don't forget.

  3. I have the West Prong Trail on my list of trails to hike next month but I noticed that it was listed as being closed after last months storm. Would you happen to know if it is still closed? Thank You.

    1. Unfortunately, West Prong is still closed, at least it was yesterday when I checked the park website ( Walker Valley cemetery is very close to the parking area, so close you can almost see it. There is probably a way to get to the cemetery without hiking on the trial. The side trail we took to the cemetery is not accessible with the trail closed. Good luck, and enjoy your visit to the Smokies.

  4. Thanks for taking us along on another great hike. Those trails look pretty nice and I sure like the signs!

    1. We'd sure be lost without the signs since the trails are not otherwise marked.