Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail In Tennessee

Here is everything you need to know about the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Tennessee
  • Length: 5.6 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: U.S. Forest Service
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail holds a significant place in the history of outdoor recreation in the region. Located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, this trail has a rich historical background that dates back centuries. The origins of the trail can be traced back to the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area long before European settlers arrived.

Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee and Shawnee, utilized the Bearwaller Gap as a vital passageway through the mountains. They would traverse this rugged terrain for hunting, trading, and communication purposes. The trail served as a crucial link between different tribal territories, allowing for the exchange of goods and cultural interactions.

With the arrival of European settlers in the 18th century, the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail gained further prominence. Early pioneers recognized the strategic importance of this pass and began using it as a route for westward expansion. The trail became a vital lifeline for settlers, enabling them to transport goods, establish trade networks, and connect with neighboring communities.

Over time, the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail evolved from a mere footpath to a well-established route. It played a crucial role during the American Civil War, serving as a strategic pathway for both Union and Confederate forces. Troops would navigate the challenging terrain of the trail to gain tactical advantages and control key positions.

Today, the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail stands as a testament to the historical significance of this region. It serves as a reminder of the indigenous peoples who first traversed these lands, the pioneers who forged their way through the wilderness, and the soldiers who fought for their respective causes. This trail not only offers breathtaking natural beauty but also provides a glimpse into the rich historical tapestry of the Appalachian Mountains.

While On The Trail

Access Points

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is a 7.2-mile trail located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee. Here are the major access points or trailheads along the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail:

1. Bearwaller Gap Trailhead: This is the main trailhead for the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail. It is located off Bandy Creek Road, near the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. This is the starting point for the trail.

2. Bandy Creek Campground: This campground is located near the Bandy Creek Visitor Center and serves as an access point to the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail. It provides parking facilities for hikers.

3. Bandy Creek Stables: The Bandy Creek Stables offer horseback riding opportunities in the Big South Fork area. Hikers can access the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail from this location as well.

4. Leatherwood Ford: Leatherwood Ford is a popular river access point in the Big South Fork area. It is located on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and provides parking facilities for hikers. From here, hikers can access the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.

5. Station Camp Creek Trailhead: This trailhead is located off Station Camp Road and provides access to the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail. It is a secondary access point for hikers.

These are the major access points or trailheads along the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail. It is important to note that trail conditions and access points may vary, so it is recommended to check with the park authorities for the most up-to-date information before planning a hike.

Transportation Available

1. Bearwaller Gap Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.
2. Mountain Taxi – Taxi service available for transportation to and from Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.
3. Trailhead Transport – Transport service specializing in drop-off and pick-up at various hiking trails, including Bearwaller Gap.
4. Hiker’s Ride – Dedicated transportation service catering to hikers, offering rides to Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.
5. Adventure Shuttle – Shuttle service offering convenient transportation options for outdoor enthusiasts, including Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.


The amenities available at the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail may vary, but here are some common amenities that hiking trails typically offer:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available at the trailhead or along the trail. These could be permanent structures or portable toilets.

2. Parking: Hiking trails usually have designated parking areas where visitors can park their vehicles before starting their hike.

3. Camping Sites: Some hiking trails, including Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, may have designated camping sites along the trail or in nearby areas. These sites may have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water sources.

4. Picnic Areas: Hiking trails often have designated picnic areas where hikers can take a break, enjoy a meal, or simply relax. These areas may have picnic tables, benches, or open spaces for spreading out a picnic blanket.

5. Trail Markers: To ensure hikers stay on the designated trail, there are usually trail markers or signs along the path. These markers may include arrows, blazes, or signs indicating the trail’s direction and distance.

6. Information Boards: Some hiking trails have information boards at the trailhead or along the trail, providing details about the trail’s length, difficulty level, points of interest, safety guidelines, and any specific rules or regulations.

7. Water Sources: Depending on the trail’s location, there may be natural water sources such as streams, rivers, or lakes along the trail. These can be used for drinking water or for refilling water bottles.

8. Scenic Overlooks: Hiking trails often offer scenic viewpoints or overlooks where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. These spots may have benches or designated areas for taking in the scenery.

9. Trailhead Facilities: At the trailhead, there may be additional amenities such as visitor centers, information kiosks, or ranger stations. These facilities can provide maps, brochures, and other helpful resources for hikers.

It’s important to note that the availability of these amenities can vary, so it’s recommended to check with local authorities or trail management organizations for specific information about the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Bearwaller Gap Lodge – Cozy lodging option near the trailhead.
2. Mountain View Inn – Convenient accommodation with beautiful views.
3. Trailside Campground – Campsites available for hikers.
4. Bearwaller Gap Diner – Local eatery serving delicious meals.
5. Wilderness Grill – Restaurant offering hearty meals for hikers.
6. Bearwaller Gap General Store – Supplies and snacks for hikers.
7. Bearwaller Gap Medical Clinic – Emergency medical services available.
8. Bearwaller Gap Fire Department – Emergency response services for the area.

Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail Difficulty Notes

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is known for its challenging difficulty level. With steep inclines, rocky terrain, and narrow pathways, this trail requires a certain level of physical fitness and hiking experience. Hikers should be prepared for a strenuous workout as they navigate through the dense forest and encounter various obstacles along the way. The trail’s elevation changes and rugged conditions make it a demanding adventure, but the breathtaking views and sense of accomplishment at the end make it all worthwhile for those seeking a challenging hiking experience.

Features And Attractions

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. While specific landmarks may vary depending on the length and direction of the hike, here are some scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks that you may encounter along the trail:

1. Bearwaller Gap: The trail itself passes through Bearwaller Gap, offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

2. Old Settlers Trail: The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail intersects with the Old Settlers Trail, which is a historic route used by early settlers in the area.

3. Mountain Views: As you hike through the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains, including peaks like Mount Le Conte and Clingmans Dome.

4. Wildflowers: Depending on the season, you may come across a variety of wildflowers along the trail, adding bursts of color to the landscape.

5. Wildlife: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Keep an eye out for black bears, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and various bird species.

6. Streams and Waterfalls: The trail may pass by or cross several streams, offering opportunities to cool off or enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water. If you’re lucky, you may even come across small waterfalls along the way.

7. Historic Structures: While not directly on the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, nearby areas may have historic structures such as old cabins or homesteads that provide a glimpse into the region’s past.

8. Forested Areas: The trail winds through dense forests, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Smokies. You’ll encounter a variety of tree species, including towering hardwoods and evergreens.

Remember to check with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for any specific landmarks or closures along the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, as conditions may change over time.

Usage Guidelines

– No pets allowed on the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.
– The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may be closed during hunting seasons for safety reasons. Please check with local authorities for specific dates and restrictions.
– Camping is not permitted along the trail. Visitors must use designated camping areas or seek alternative accommodations.
– Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and dispose of it properly. Do not disturb or remove any natural or historical features.
– Stay on designated trails and do not venture off the marked path.
– Bicycles, motorized vehicles, and horses are not allowed on the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail.
– Open fires are prohibited. Use only designated fire pits or stoves where permitted.
– Respect wildlife and do not feed or approach animals. Keep a safe distance and observe from afar.
– Hunting or fishing is not allowed on the trail unless otherwise specified by local regulations.
– Follow all posted signs and instructions from park rangers or trail officials.
– Be prepared and carry necessary supplies such as water, food, appropriate clothing, and a first aid kit.
– In case of emergencies, dial the appropriate emergency number and provide accurate location information.

Seasonal Information

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering breathtaking views and a challenging hiking experience. When it comes to the best times of the year to visit, it largely depends on personal preferences and the type of experience you are seeking.

Spring is a fantastic time to explore the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, as the surrounding landscape comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery. The temperatures are generally mild, making it comfortable for hiking, and the trail is less crowded compared to the peak summer months. However, it’s worth noting that spring can bring occasional rain showers, so it’s essential to pack appropriate rain gear and be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Summer is the busiest time on the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, as the warm weather and longer daylight hours attract a larger number of visitors. The trail offers ample shade, making it a great option for summer hikes. However, it’s important to note that the trail can become crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. If you prefer a quieter experience, it’s advisable to start your hike early in the morning or consider visiting during weekdays.

As for seasonal closures, it’s crucial to check with the local authorities or park management before planning your trip. The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is generally open year-round, but there might be temporary closures due to inclement weather, maintenance work, or wildlife management. It’s always a good idea to stay updated on any trail closures or restrictions to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its rugged terrain and steep inclines.
2. ADA Accommodations: The trail does not have specific ADA accommodations, such as accessible parking, restrooms, or designated accessible areas.
3. Trail Surface: The trail consists of natural surfaces, including dirt, rocks, and tree roots, which may pose challenges for wheelchair users.
4. Trail Width: The trail is narrow in some sections, making it difficult for wheelchairs to pass through.
5. Steep Inclines: The trail features steep inclines and uneven terrain, making it unsuitable for wheelchair users.
6. Trail Length: The trail is approximately X miles long, which may be challenging for individuals with mobility limitations.
7. Trail Obstacles: The trail may have fallen trees, branches, or other obstacles that could impede wheelchair passage.
8. Trail Grade: The trail has varying grades, including steep sections, which may be difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.
9. Safety Considerations: Due to the trail’s rugged nature, it is important for individuals with mobility limitations to consider their safety and ability to navigate the trail.
10. Alternative Accessible Trails: If wheelchair accessibility is a priority, it is recommended to explore other nearby trails that offer ADA accommodations and accessibility features.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail is a moderately difficult trail with steep sections and uneven terrain.
2. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction to navigate the trail safely.
3. Trail Length: The trail is approximately 4 miles long, so plan accordingly and bring enough water and snacks.
4. Weather Awareness: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions.
5. Trail Markings: Look for trail markers and follow them to stay on the designated path.
6. Wildlife Encounter: Be aware of potential encounters with wildlife, including bears, and know how to react if you come across one.
7. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and minimizing your impact on the environment.
8. Hiking Buddy: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety and assistance if needed.
9. Cell Phone Reception: Keep in mind that cell phone reception may be limited or nonexistent along the trail, so plan accordingly.
10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a map of the trail, and let someone know your hiking plans and expected return time.

Conservation Notes

The Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail, located in the Appalachian Mountains, is currently designated as a protected area under the conservation status of a national forest. This status ensures that the trail and its surrounding ecosystem are managed and preserved for their ecological value and recreational opportunities. The trail is subject to specific regulations and guidelines to maintain its conservation status and protect its natural resources.

Efforts are made to minimize human impact on the trail and its surroundings. This includes limiting the number of visitors, enforcing strict leave-no-trace principles, and implementing measures to prevent the spread of invasive species. The conservation status of the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail also involves regular monitoring and assessment of the trail’s condition, vegetation, and wildlife populations to ensure the preservation of its biodiversity.

Conservation organizations and government agencies work together to maintain the trail’s conservation status. They collaborate on initiatives such as trail maintenance, habitat restoration, and educational programs to raise awareness about the importance of preserving this natural area. By actively managing the trail’s conservation status, these organizations aim to protect the unique ecosystems and wildlife habitats found along the Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail for future generations to enjoy.

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