Mt. Cammerer Trail: A Strenuous Yet Satisfying View of Nature

National Park
Difficulty: Difficult
6hr45min AVG TIME
11.1mi DISTANCE
3,045ft ELEVATION

Mount Cammerer Trail

Located in Greenbrier and Cosby, Mount Cammerer is a trail offering both panoramic vistas and historic sites. Round trip the trail will take you 11.1 miles, with an escalating elevation of 3,045 feet for a difficulty rating of 17.19. The highest point on the trail is 5,054 awe inspiring feet. Along the hike you’ll benefit from the scenic vistas of the Sutton Ridge Overlook featuring enjoyable ridge top hiking. The final reward for your efforts is the Mount Cammerer fire tower, an old lookout building offering a respite nestled in history and nature. Keep in mind this trail is considered strenuous and not for the faint of heart. However, if you are physically up to the challenge, Mt. Cammerer will reward you generously for your efforts with views in abundance.

Directions to the Trail:
Come into Gatlinburg and take the third light, at the 441/321 junction, eastward to Highway 321/73. Drive 18.2 miles and the road will run into Highway 32. Go right towards Cosby Creek and 1.2 miles further until you reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance. Take a right into the park and go for 2.1 miles to reach Cosby Campground. Inside the campground, park in the large area on the left, which is designated for the Low Gap Trailhead, which is where your hike to Mt. Cammerer commences. Make sure to park in the correct parking lot, or you’ll face the wrath of the host of the campground.

Trailhead Tip:
While there are several trailheads here at the campground, make sure to following the one between the river and the road of the campground. The trail to lowerMount Cammerer will eventually branch off, so keep your eyes peeled for the intersection sign leading you to upward. You could take any of the other trailheads at the campground that lead to Low Gap, other than the trailhead for Gabes Mountain Trail and Hen Wallow Falls.

Location of Trailhead:
The most popular hike to Mount Cammerer starts at the Low Gap Trailhead of the Appalachian Trail, carrying you up to the fire tower, and then backtracking down the same way you hiked. Your hike will carry you to the summit of Mt. Cammerer, a 4,928-foot mountain, where you can enjoy the 360 degree view, rest for a while, or eat lunch at the fire tower.

The hike includes:

  • 2.9 miles along the Low Gap Trail up to the Appalachian Trail
  • 2.1 miles to junction to the fire tower
  • 0.6 miles to the fire tower
  • Return miles are the same

This strenuous hike is rocky and features a steep grade through a forest of mature hardwood. Get ready to tackle the steep incline for the 2.9 mile stretch on the Low Gap Trail. However, the ascent is less strenuous than the descent thanks to switchbacks. Take hiking poles for safety purposes and due to the descent, which is notoriously more difficult to handle than the steep hike up the mountain. The trail begins to level out at 3.7 miles thanks to the ridge, where you’ll get views of Toms Creek and Cosby Creek valleys. The final seven-tenths of a mile up the steep, rocky hill to the lookout tower are tiring, but doable without being exceedingly difficult.

Expect this hike to take you anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, not counting the time you’ll spend resting and enjoying the scenery at the fire tower. Note this trail is not for the faint of heart or those who hike fewer than once or twice a year. Be prepared for this hike by taking a few shorter trails in the weeks prior to work yourself up to the Mt. Cammerer trail. Otherwise, you risk your safety and the safety of others in the instance that you cannot make the hike or are injured, i.e. strained muscles or twisted ligaments, on the steep and rocky incline.

Advice for Hikers

  • Bring a camera and binoculars for the views. Pack a picnic and prepare to take a nap at the tower once you’ve reach the zenith of the trail. Also pack a flashlight, given this is a full-day hike.
  • Prepare for cloudy mornings on the mountain, which encourages most hikers to get started on the trail at around 10 am.
  • If you are interested in camping at Cosby Campground, this campground is hardly ever full. Additionally, the picnic area of the campground is very spacious, and likewise never crowded.
  • If you stay at the Cosby Campground, you can get access to a path to the Low Gap Trail that will decrease your hiking distance by a little more than eight-tenths of a mile.

Seasonal Tips

  • Fringed phacelia has been reported to carpet the junction point where the Low Gap Trail meets the Appalachian Trail in May
  • In mid-summer, the rhododendron are in full bloom along with a wide variety of other wildflowers.
  • October offers the best chance to experience the fabulous fall foliage at its peak.
The Bottom Line:

Traveling along Mt. Cammerer Trail affords you views of densely wooded forest, seasonally blooming flora and the occasional bear track. It's worth your while if you are a seasoned hiker in the area for a day.