One of the great advantages of Tennessee is that you have the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as a part of your outdoor adventure. It’s often hard to find loop hikes that you can leave your car at one place and return back right to your car. There are a few loop hikes in the Smokies that offer such a trip.
The following is our hike of 17.7 mile loop hike, combining the following trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Jake’s Creek, Panther Creek, Lynn Camp Prong, and Miry Ridge Trails. We completed this hike on a warm summer’s day in July.
Our hike starts at the Jakes Creek Trail Head that starts in the Elkmont Campground and ends in the Elkmont Campground. Your hike begins at the Jakes Creek Trailhead located on the road past the old cabins of Elkmont. This trail follows the old railroad grade that served the Little River Lumber Co. in the early 1900’s. At 0.3 mi the intersection of Cucumber Gap Trail goes left and then at 0.4mi Meigs Mtn Trail goes right. From here you gain some elevation and soon you will have a tricky creek crossing especially with recent rains. There are several more stream crossings but none that can’t be easily rock-hopped. At 2.6 mi Campsite #27 is on your left it is small but level, heavily used and horses are permitted here. The trail continues to climb as the creek starts to disappear. Gently climbing for the last 0.7 miles, the trail reaches Jakes Gap at an elevation of 4,055 feet. The trail has climbed over 1,500 feet since leaving Elkmont. At 3.3 the trail ends at Jakes Gap and intersects with Panther Creek Trail and Miry Ridge Trail.
Turn Right on the Panther Creek Trail and start your 2.3 mile decent to Middle Prong Trail. You will several creek crossings along your hike. Expect a deep creek crossing right before you get to the Middle Prong Trail Head. This creek crossing could be waste high after a big rain fall or Spring.
At the Middle Prong Trail Junction turn Left and continue on the Middle Prong Trail for a few miles. Very near the trail junction, The Middle Prong CCC Camp was built in this area as crews constructed roads in the park between 1933 and 1937. After the camp, the trail continues the climb, and starts to switchback. At 3.5 miles, you cross a bridge that traverses Indian Flats Prong before the trail starts to turn away from the creek and climb a steepening series of switchbacks.
Turn Left at the Lynn Camp Prong Trail and hike the 3.7 miles (really nice campsite on the way (28)). Turn Left again and junction with the Miry Ridge Trail. The Miry Ridge Trail is a 5 mile trail that offers some pretty good views after campsite 26. There is a rock out cropping that you can climb. At this point it’s all the way down hill to junction again with the Jake’s Creek Trail and the 3 mile hike back to your car to Elkmont Campground.