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  1. #1
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    Default Hannah Mountain Trail - The Place to Get Away From the Crowds

    I don't quite understand it, but twice now, I've hiked the Hannah Mountain Trail during Veteran's Day weekend, and both times, I basically had that corner of the park to myself. Campsites #14, #15, and #16 just don't have ANYONE staying at them this time of year.

    Yet I've found it a great time to hike this section of the woods. You get a combination of beautiful leaf-covered trails and a touch of fall color still in some of the trees. The trail isn't particularly difficult, and the distances are quite reasonable for most hikers. Temperatures can be on the chilly side, but it can also be great weather for building a camp fire (something I now usually do without in GSMNP).

    Basically, you park at the Gregory Ridge Trail head and walk the 3 miles up Parson's Branch Road to get to Hannah Mountain Trail. You exit the back country at Abrams Fall trail head where it's a 3 mile road walk back to your car (and less if you can score a hitch-hike). You can either complete the loop using Rabbit Creek Trail, or you can ford Abrams Creek and return via Abrams Falls Trail.


    The 1st year I did this loop, one car passed us driving Parson's Branch Road. Once we got to the trail, the only person we saw all day was that same motorist who had done an out-and-back day hike on parts of Hannah Mountain Trail. Weather was warm enough that a 32 sleeping bag was all I needed.

    This year, Parson's Branch Road was closed (and from the rumors I've heard, that might become permanent). The only person we saw that 1st day was a bicyclist resting at the Hannah Mountain Trail head spending the day taking advantage of bicycling Parson's Branch Road now devoid of vehicle traffic. We didn't see another person until we reached the Abrams Creek Ford the following day. Weather the 1st night was pretty cold (forecast was for temperatures to kiss the freezing point), but the 2nd night was very comfortable. Cold enough to enjoy a warm fire after sunset, yet plenty warm enough tucked away in your sleeping bag.

    About the only negative to these trips has been having to deal with all the other motorists circling Cades Cove. This past Friday late morning, we averaged around 5-8 mph between the start of Cades Cove Loop and the trail head.

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    i think the difficulty of access to hannah mountain makes it less traveled.....

    with parsons being shut down, that (generally) takes away access from that side and with the bridge being out down at abrams, that makes it more difficult...

    at least to the average day hiker type of person...

    also----14 and 16 arent really the ideal spots to stay at in the park..

    15 is a nice one........but the other two dont do much for me at least..

    oh, and forgot about the access to rabbit creek up near the cove----that takes a decent ford of the creek......

    and the ford of the creek down along abrams as well...........

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    hannah mountain----before parsons was closed-----when i went in from that side-----and to stay at 14------i had a 9 bear day........

    thats the most ive seen in one day....

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i think the difficulty of access to hannah mountain makes it less traveled.....
    The 1st time I did this loop, Parson's Branch Road was open (and I think even pre-dated the installation of the sign the recommends a 4x4 to travel the road) and the bridge across Abrams Creek near the Rangers Station was still in place.

    As for the fords...

    The ford of Rabbit Creek is perhaps one of the easiest fords in the park. It's not very deep (typically lower than you knees) and the bottom is relatively smooth (lots of small rocks, no boulders to slip on or navigate around).

    The ford of Abrams Creek at the intersection of Hannah Mountain isn't "easy"... usually about mid-thigh at its deepest on the Hannah Mountain side, and lots of slick boulders to negotiate as you approach the Abrams Trail side. But I've crossed it a couple of times with kids in the range of 8yo. This weekend, it was crotch deep at its deepest, but I would have still felt comfortable crossing with an 8yo holding his hand. This week, however, I was with my teenage son.

    The ford of Abrams Creek near the Abrams Ranger Station is easier than the ford at the Hannah Mountain... or so I was recently told by a Park Ranger.


    The 1st time I saw #14, I didn't think much of it. Having camped there twice now, I don't think it's too bad. The only issue we had with it this weekend was the cold wind. The campsite sits at the top of a saddle joining two parallel mountain ranges. So any hint of wind gets a little amplified on that saddle. But it was less windy than I typically experience at Sheep Pen Gap near Gregory Bald.

    I've only stayed at #16 once. I don't recall it being particularly bad (it's a bit more sheltered compared to #14) but do recall liking it more than #14.

    This particular weekend, we stayed at #17 along Abrams Creek the 2nd night. I think it's one of the better campsites in the park... but because it's only 3 and 5 miles two trail heads, it's rather popular. Saturday night it was about 75% full by the numbers. But it has several campsites spread way out, so it was still nice even if we didn't have it to ourselves.

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    17 is a nice site.....

    the ford down near the rangers station can be tricky......it deeper and swifter than the other fords (typically)...

    but, at the end of the day----most people dont like any fords at all...........they rather have a bridged crossing.....

    so, some people wont hike it based on that...

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    and i think most people would rather have a campsite that is located on or very close to a stream...

    unlike 14 and somewhat 16......

    16 had a trickle of a water source when i stayed there years ago...

    at one time---there was a shelter there......

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    LOL, At first I read this as "Hannah Montana" trail! Wondering why anyone would want to visit that.

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    Hannah is a favorite for leaf viewing at the right time for sure. I like to loop from Abrams ranger station/ Happy Valley side so there is no cove loop traffic which I can't really stand. I like coming up that back side of Gregory too...nice slopes over there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    and i think most people would rather have a campsite that is located on or very close to a stream...
    unlike 14 and somewhat 16......
    #14 has an excellent water source 0.2 shy of the campsite when approaching from Parson's Branch Road (though the Little Brown Book says this source might dry up during a dry weather).
    #16 on the other hand... isn't is among the first of the campsites to get listed as dry during dry weather? Actually, I'm not sure where the official water source is. I think I read that you simply continue down hill from the campsite. But the one time I camped at #16, I think I had already filled up at the #14 source and didn't need any more. I seem to recall seeing a strong water flow east of #16 along Hannah Mountain each time I've hiked it... but looking at the terrain, it appears that water source should be located about 0.4 miles away from the campsite.

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    I didn't say that 14 didn't have a water source nearby (as I found 2)---but people would rather have a campsite near a creek than one that's not....

    most of the popular sites in the park are located along creeks, and there's a reason for that...

    one big exception would shelters but they become popular because a majority of them are on the AT...

    16 had a small trickle that was located at the bottom (or complete opposite of the entrance) of the campsite...

    theres also a nearby small creek that one could walk to and have a more reliable source....

    as far as it drying up---not sure on that----but it's a good possibility...

    26 is the one that really dries up when there's a drought...

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Hannah is a favorite for leaf viewing at the right time for sure. I like to loop from Abrams ranger station/ Happy Valley side so there is no cove loop traffic which I can't really stand. I like coming up that back side of Gregory too...nice slopes over there.
    The 1st time I hiked a Hannah Mountain Loop, I showed up at Cades Cove early enough to be 1st in line.

    But this weekend, I didn't arrive at Cades Cove until about 10:00 local time... and traffic was the most infuriating part of the whole trip. There were two people on bicycles that were able to keep up with the flow.

    So I love the idea of coming from the into the area from the Abrams Ranger Station side... but that requires you either skip the bulk of Hannah Mountain, hike Hannah Mountain as an out-n-back, or put in some big miles (>13) at least one day to do Hannah Mountain as a loop.


    The Hannah Mountain/Gregory Bald loop I once did was to park at Gregory Ridge Trail head, hike the road to Abrams Creek Trail, down Abrams Creek to Hannah Mountain to #14 (12.5 miles, minor hills), then to #13 (8.5 miles, major climb), then Gregory Ridge back to the car (6 miles and steep decent).

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    ...most of the popular sites in the park are located along creeks, and there's a reason for that...
    one big exception would shelters but they become popular because a majority of them are on the AT...
    You would need to include Sheep Pen Gap (#13) and Mt Sterling (#38) on that exception list.

    Of course when you take inventory of GSMNP back country campgrounds, you find that something along the lines of 75% of them are along a creek.

    My personal favorite is still #13, even with the lest than stellar water source.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    You would need to include Sheep Pen Gap (#13) and Mt Sterling (#38) on that exception list.

    Of course when you take inventory of GSMNP back country campgrounds, you find that something along the lines of 75% of them are along a creek.

    My personal favorite is still #13, even with the lest than stellar water source.


    Yeah----I was giving a couple of examples as I'm stuck in a county commission meeting right now....

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    This brings up an old memory. My first overnight hike in GSMNP was to site 16 via Rabbit Creek/Abrams Falls loop. There was a shelter at 16 then, probably 1972?. I remember hearing pigs close by and was glad to be off the ground!

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    I never got to see the shelter at #16... but the night I camped there about 3 years ago, I too heard noised that prompted my Ghost Story as told in this post.

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    i saw it a few months before it got torn down....

    along with the shelter that was at 113.......

    (and i wanna say i saw the one that was at 5)......

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i saw it a few months before it got torn down....
    along with the shelter that was at 113.......
    (and i wanna say i saw the one that was at 5)......
    Never got to see any of them... the closest I came was #5. My second camping trip ever to GSMNP was at #5. At the time, my trail map indicated a shelter was there, so I left home without a tent. Didn't learn that the shelter had only recently been pulled down until I stopped at the ranger station to fill out a permit. Luckily, rain was in the forecast and I had never seen a back country shelter. So not knowing how water tight the roof was, I had brought along a blue tarp. Since there was no roof, the tarp was my shelter for the night at #5.

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    do you remember what year that would have been?


    i seen to recall hiking passed the shelter at 5 around late 1997 or early 1998....

    but someone on a different forum thought it had been torn down by then...

    i seem to recall it still being there when i passed by....

    cause i have the image in my head of how it looked...

    and all three of those former shelters were kinda beat up boxes and 113 had moss and all that on the roof....

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    The shelter at 5 was round logs I think and no chain link. I passed by doing the Rich Mtn. Loop as a day hike. The fire tower was still on Rich Mtn. I don't recall the year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    do you remember what year that would have been?


    i seen to recall hiking passed the shelter at 5 around late 1997 or early 1998....

    but someone on a different forum thought it had been torn down by then...
    I checked my hiking log and it shows I camped at #5 in April of 1997. At the time, I thought I had been told the shelter had been torn town just the year before... can't be sure when it was torn down, but it was gone by April 1997.

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