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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Snake Den Ridge - Appalachian Trail - Low Gap Loop

View from Appalachian Trail during Snake Den Ridge Loop to Low Gap

May 06, 2014

We arrived at Great Smoky Mountains National Park from North Carolina so we ended up camping at Cosby. Cosby campground was in the northeast section of the park and was also where the trailhead for Snake Den Ridge Trail was located. Because of this, we hiked the trails near the campsite. 

On the day we did the Snake Den Loop hike, M and I started later than we had anticipated, making this a warmer start than I would have liked. Temps were already in the mid 60's and rose to mid 80's by noon. Since the trailhead was in Cosby campground, a quick walk through the campsites led us to the trailhead marker.

The first 0.7 miles of the trail was on a gravel road that took us past an old cemetery dating from the 1900's and then to a roundabout at the end. From the roundabout, we took the right fork and got onto the mulched trail. Snake Den Ridge along with the Appalachian Trail and Low Gap were all horse trails. This meant that riders regularly rode horses, making the trails well trodden, full of rocks (so horses could have better footing), and sometimes, full of poop. I was not a big fan of horse trails so this added to my frustration. Not only did the trail conditions make me ornery, Snake Den Ridge was sunny, hot, humid, and lacked wind. We were hiking south of the ridge while most of the wind was coming in from the north. This loop tested my patience as heat/humidity and horse trails were two of the things I loathed- the most. Regardless, we pushed on. 

Snake Den Ridge was 5.3 miles long with a 3000 ft ascent. Around 2 miles into the hike, we crossed Inadu Creek which had a little waterfall. After that, we switchbacked through woods and rhododendron lined trails until we reached a grassy clearing 4 miles in. Another mile after this clearing, the trail met up with the Appalachian Trail. The AT was marked with white blazes and was relatively easy to hike on. With the sun shining on us and the wind almost nonexistent, we tried our best to hike through this 5 mile section of the AT. The AT sloped gently up and down a ridge and led us around Cosby Knob. After circumventing the summit of the Cosby Knob, the trail led us to a 4 way T junction. We took the left path for Low Gap Trail. Again, this section was rocky and all downhill. It was an easy hike though hot and sweaty. Overall, the 13 mile loop was great but I was excited to make it back to camp so we could go back into town for a shower.

Map of the hike. We went counter clockwise from our campsite at Cosby. Snake Den Appalachian Low Gap Loop

Snake Den Ridge Trail

In Cosby campground, the trailhead for Snake Den Ridge. The start of the 3000 ft ascent

Snake Den Ridge, gravel section.

Hiking past the cemetery. This area used to be part of a town.

The roundabout. Take the right fork in the cul de sac to get to the trail

Snake Den Ridge Trail

Crossing Rock Creek

Trail ascends through woods

Trail climbs through Snake Den Ridge

Crossing Inadu Creek around 2 miles in

Switchback goes to the left with full sun and no wind

Trail continues on the south side of the ridge

We were treated to a nice view and a tiny bit of a breeze here

Wide switchback that can accommodate horses on Snake Den Ridge

Garter snake on the appropriately named Snake Den Ridge Trail. This area is the perfect habitat for snakes.

Higher up in elevation, still switchbacking up Snake Den Ridge

4 miles in, 2500 ft up. Grass clearing along trail

Spur trail to Maddron Bald Trail. We went left and stayed on Snake Den Ridge

Trail thins out but is still an easy hike. 500 ft ascent to get to Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Junction for Appalachian Trail from Snake Den Ridge

White blazes mark the Appalachian Trail. Wide, clear, and rocky trail

Appalachian Trail

Breathtaking view from Appalachian Trail makes up for the heat

Half way on the Appalachian Trail. Junction where Camel Gap meets the trail

Enjoying the views along Appalachian Trail

Ridge hike on Appalachian Trail near Cosby Knob

Trail marker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park along Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail descending closer to Low Gap Trail

T junction for Low Gap from Appalachian Trail. Take trail to the left for Low Gap

Low Gap Trail

Take trail to left for Low Gap. This part of the trail is all descent with switchbacks.

Low Gap Trail

Switchback on Low Gap Trail, going down to the creek

Low Gap, cross bridge to get back to Cosby campsite

Crossing the bridge to get back to Cosby camp. The end of the hike.

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