Friday, September 7, 2012

Turkeypen Ridge Trail

After a weekend of consuming an abundance of food and drink at the family reunion, we were more than ready for a day on the trail.  It always feels so good to breath fresh air, stretch our legs, work those muscles, and sweat out some of those impurities we’ve dumped into our bodies.

For our hike, we chose Turkeypen Ridge Trail.  We put it with a few others to make a 9-mile, relatively easy loop--just what we needed after almost a week off the trail.  Another plus for Turkeypen Ridge is the trailhead is close.  We wanted to hike, not spend too much time in the car.

Hearts a burstin'
Turkeypen Ridge trail is 3.6 miles in length, gently rolling along and only gaining a couple hundred feet regardless of which direction you hike.  After gaining the ridge line from either end, the trail basically follows the ridge, weaving in and out of one cove after another, then drops down into either Dorsey Gap on Schoolhouse Gap Trail or Big Spring Cove at Laurel Creek Road.

For our hike, we parked at the trailhead on Laurel Creek Road at Big Spring Cove.  This is the same parking lot used for Finley Cane Trail and Lead Cove Trail.  There are parking pull-outs on both sides of Laurel Creek Road, but because there are three trailheads here, finding a spot can sometimes be difficult.  Our plan was to begin our hike with the 3.6 miles of Turkeypen Ridge Trail, then hike down 1.1 miles of Schoolhouse Gap Trail, connect with Bote Mountain Trail on the other side of Laurel Creek Road, hike up Bote Mountain Trail to Finley Cane trail which would bring us back to our car making a total hiking distance of 9 miles.  It would have been possible to do this same loop by parking at Schoolhouse Gap trailhead.  For a longer, more strenuous hike, Lead Cove Trail could be used instead of Finley Cane.

The first leg of our hike, Turkeypen Ridge Trail, was a very pleasant walk through low elevation hardwood forest and rhododendron.  There are a couple of small stream crossings within the first half mile, but nothing to worry about.  They were very shallow and narrow--easily crossed.  The hike begins in the wide, flat area of Big Spring Cove.  There are few flat areas in the Smokies.  Before the Park was established, all these areas were farms.  We saw several rock piles--evidence the land had been cleared for crops.

There are still a few folks out enjoying the Park

We descended from the ridge to the junction with Schoolhouse Gap Trail.  This trail is an old roadbed--wide and well graded.  It’s an easy 1.1 mile walk, partly along Spence Branch to the large parking lot on Laurel Creek Road.  We found a large rock here which made a great place for lunch.

Lower section of Bote Mountain Trail
For the last half of our hike we headed across Laurel Creek Road to the Bote Mountain trailhead.  This is the lower end of Bote Mountain Trail.  From here it heads uphill for 7 miles, gaining 3500 feet, to intersect with the Appalachian Trail.  That’s a pretty steep climb.  Luckily, we were only going to the junction with Finley Cane Trail, a mere 1.5 miles away.  Also, lucky for us, the trail rises very gently in this first mile.  Bote Mountain Trail is actually a continuation of the same old road as Schoolhouse Gap Trail follows.  Like Schoolhouse Gap Trail, Bote Mountain Trail is wide and well graded in this section.  It is a very pleasant walk through rhododendron. This would be a beautiful walk in early summer.

I need to get a fungus book.  Wish I knew the name of this.
We took a short break when we reached the junction with Finley Cane Trail before starting the last leg of our journey.  This is the same Finley Cane we hiked a few weeks ago, so it is very familiar to us.  This is a very easy, almost flat trail from Bote Mountain for a little over a mile, then very gently downhill, descending a couple hundred feet over the last 1.5 miles to our car.

We had a very nice walk; just what we needed.

We could definitely tell summer is over--the crowds are gone.  We saw only one other family on the trail even though there were several cars in the parking lots.

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


  1. I haven't done this loop this year and it's one of my favorites. Hope to remedy that by year end. Turkeypen Ridge is one of my favorite fall trails. The foliage is just gorgeous.

  2. I love hiking in September - the weather is still good and the crowds are gone. Looks like another great hike!