Monday, August 27, 2012

Middle Prong Trail

There are so many trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park that it would be possible to hike a different trail each week for over 2 years.  Of course, some trails are better than others and there are several that are worth doing over and over.  Every time we hike a trail, we have a whole new experience.  The weather may be different--the mountain may be shrouded in fog or bathed in sunlight; the leaves may be green or the ablaze with color.  The different seasons also offer a whole new perspective to the trail.  Sometimes we find something we never knew existed on a trail we’ve hiked many times.  That’s what happened on our last hike up Middle Prong Trail.

Middle Prong has proven to be an exciting trail to hike this summer.  We last did this trail the last week in June.  On that hike we only went up as far as the junction with Panther Creek Trail, but found there the crew counting the brook trout.  That was exciting and this week we found a waterfall we hadn’t previously known was on this trail.

Middle Prong Trail begins at the end of the gravel portion of Tremont Road.  This three mile section of gravel road from Tremont Institute to the Middle Prong trailhead is closed in winter.  This is another one of those trails we wanted to hike again before the road is closed.  The parking area at the trailhead is large enough for several cars and the road ends in a loop for the benefit of those towing horse trailers.

Remains of an old homestead or a CCC camp.

As we pulled into the parking area we noticed a large group of hikers.  There are several Wednesday hiking clubs in the area and we’ve been wanting to join one of these groups.  Gene jumped out of the car and introduced himself.  As it turned out they were part of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, a club we already belong to.  Smoky Mountains Hiking Club has a reputation of hiking fast, faster than we want to go.  They also like to hike the old trails which are no longer maintained.  We’re not into bushwhacking, either.

Cardinal Flower

While Gene was talking with a couple members of the group, he learned they were headed up Middle Prong to an old trail which leads to Indian Flats waterfall.  They invited us to come along, but we didn’t want to race up the trail then have to bushwhack to some obscure falls.  We let them go on about their business and we went about ours.

Middle Prong Trail is just over four miles in length and an easy four miles it is.  The trail follows an old logging road and rises gently just over a 1000 feet over the course of its entire length.  Lynn Camp Prong tumbles and cascades over boulders just below the trail on the left as you head uphill. There is the occasional swimming hole for the more adventuresome on a hot summer day.  The water in these mountain streams is always too cold for me.

After 2.8 miles we stopped at the Panther Creek Trail junction for a short break.  Middle Prong Trail beyond this junction becomes a little steeper, but hardly noticeable.  The trail gains its elevation by way of long switchbacks.  At the curve of one of these switchbacks we noticed a distinct trail leading off to the right.  From the description Gene got from the hikers in the parking lot, we assumed this to be the trail to the waterfalls.  We could definitely hear the sound of water and, ever so faintly, voices.

We continued on up Middle Prong Trail and, after the next switchback, came to the junction with Lynn Camp Prong Trail and Greenbrier Ridge Trail.  This marks the end of Middle Prong Trail and a perfect place for our lunch break.

From this junction the Appalachian Trail and Derrick Knob shelter are 4.2 miles up Greenbrier Ridge Trail.  It is possible to take Lynn Camp Prong Trail 3.7 miles over to Miry Ridge Trail and down that trail to connect with Panther Creek Trail making a nice loop for a horse ride.

Indian Flats Falls
After our lunch we headed back the way we came.  By the time we got back to the switchback to the falls, the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club group were milling around waiting for the last of their hikers to return from the falls.  They pointed the way for us and encouraged us to go take a look.  They assured us this old trail required no bushwhacking.

We could see at least 2 lower sections of the falls, but we
didn't try to climb down for a better view.
They were sure right about that.  It was as good a trail as most of the maintained trails in the Smokies.  And, it was only about 75 yards to the waterfalls.  The area at the falls was a wonderful place for lunch or just hanging out.  In fact, Gene spoke to a hiker coming up Middle Prong Trail who was on his way to the falls with his hammock to spend a quiet, relaxing afternoon.

One of a couple of cairns in front of the falls
Garnett adding a stone to one.
We expected to have a great hike, but with the discovery of this little waterfalls, our hike was fantastic.  We’ll be returning there for sure.

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


  1. Ah, so you found the secret falls. Would've loved to have shown it to you myself. But that picture of it looks pitiful (absolutely NOTHING to do with your photography skills which are excellent!!). I've been there many time and that's by far the least water I've every seen coming over the falls. It is stunning when full. Hope we can go back together sometime.

    1. Water levels are down all over the park, so I'm not surprised that the waterfalls is low. We'll go back after a little snowmelt and a few spring rains. Should be a whole new experience.

  2. Sure liked the photos of the waterfalls. Our falls around here are a little short on water right now too.

  3. I was just trying to find some info on these falls tonight when I found your post. I had read about it somewhere but couldn't remember where to look for the side trail. THANKS!!!

  4. The trail led you to an amazing sight. It looks cool and fun out there. The waterfall looks like it could use some water though. I wish I can go there and take a dip. I love it the looks of this one loads. The trail looks like it is one trip to remember.