Inevitably, we slow our hiking down over the winter holiday and cold weather season. So in early spring, we are trying to get our trail legs back underneath us. Even 8 miles can seem daunting. This little loop in the Smokies was a perfect way to get out and enjoy an unseasonably warm February day near Gatlinburg near our company retreat.
We started the hike near the Elkmont campground. Just before the campground, turn left onto a paved road and you'll find parking about half a mile down the road. A second parking area can be accessed further down that road and will put you near the end of this loop. Either place you park, you're in good shape.
We chose to do the loop by starting on Little River and ending on Cucumber Gap. I'd recommend this direction because the elevation gain is spread out evenly and slowly on the Little River trail. Either way, you'll have a pretty enjoyable hike!
The Little River Trail runs along the creek almost the entire time of the hike. Several benches offer a spot for a breakfast or lunch spot. A highlight of the hike is Husky Branch falls (pictured below) which runs right next to the trail. The trail is even built over it. The turn off for Cucumber Gap trail comes not too far after the waterfall. Because I am trying to hike all the trails in the Smokies, we did a little extra distance out to the Husky Gap trailhead and then double backed to the Cucumber Gap trail.
The views along Cucumber Gap trail are limited but we saw some nice early spring wildflowers and generally enjoyed being in the woods. Two creek crossings required some balance and coordination. We easily found large sticks to use as balancers; if you routinely carry hiking poles, you'll be happy you have them for these crossings.
At the end of Cucumber Gap trail, turn right onto Jakes Creek trail. This trail descends past historic building sites down into a parking area with unused cabins. We parked closer to Little River so we walked the road back to our car.
Total Distance: ~7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: ~800 feet