Little River Trail

National Park
Difficulty: Easy
2hr45min AVG TIME
4.9mi DISTANCE
412ft ELEVATION

Little River Trail

Little River Trail follows an old logging road used by the Little River Lumber Company in the early 1900s. Along the trail you’ll see evidence of the past logging operations, including railroad rails and steel cables. While the forest has since recovered, the logging operations removed the majority of old growth trees.

The trailhead starts behind the Little River Trail parking area near Elkmont Campground. In April and May, the trail is a pleasant amble through beautiful wildflowers. Come October, look upwards for spectacular foliage.

For the first 0.2 miles you’ll pass old vacation cabins. Once you leave the cabins behind, the trail follows along the Little River. At roughly 2.2 miles, you’ll cross over the 20-foot Huskey Branch Falls. Immediately prior to reaching the 2.5 mile point, you will arrive at the Cucumber Gap Trail junction on your right. Although this is the normal turn-around spot, you can extend the hike by staying straight to continue on the Little River Trail.

If you decide to hike the remainder of the trail, it will increase the total roundtrip hike from 4.9 miles to 7.6 miles. At 2.7 miles, pass the junction with Huskey Gap Trail on your left. Bear right here to stay on Little River Trail and continue following Little River upstream. At 3.7 miles from the trailhead, Little River intersections with the Goshen Prong Trail. If you’re doing this trail as a day hike, turn right onto Goshen Prong Trail and continue 0.1 miles to the scenic bridge over the Little River crossing, which makes for a great photo op. Retrace your path (now bearing left at the fork) to return to the Little River trailhead.

Directions:
Starting at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 4.9 miles west along Little River Road to reach the Elkmont Campground turnoff. Turn left at the campground sign and drive 1.4 miles to reach the campground. Do not turn into the campground. Turn left and drive an additional 0.6 miles to reach the Little River Trail. The Little River Trail is a popular choice with families on weekends, so plan to arrive early for trailhead parking or prepare to park some distance from the gate and walk in.

Insider Tips:
-This easy hike is perfect for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. Make it as long (or short) as you’d like.
-Peak hiking times are spring for the wildflowers and fall for the foliage. Little River Trail is also home to the Smokies’ famous “synchronous fire flies.” In early summer, groups of male fireflies flash in unison, transforming the forest from total darkness to a spectacular light show every few seconds. This behavior was officially documented here in 1993 and the Elkmont area has since become a popular destination for firefly viewing.
-With a backcountry permit, you can also use Little River Trail as part of a longer backcountry hike. Popular options include the addition of Rough Creek Trail up Sugarland Mountain on day two, before turning onto Huskey Gap Trail and following this trail back to Little River Trail for a 16.2 mile, two-day loop.

The Bottom Line:

Little River Trail is an easy hike along an old logging road that makes for a pleasant amble and is accessible for individuals of all fitness levels. If you’re camping at Elkmont Campground, this hike is perfect for a short, early morning stroll before the crowds arrive. There’s no “end” destination like a waterfall or panoramic outcropping, so you can make the hike as long or short as you’d like.