This is a video of a winter loop hike that we did over three days and 31 miles in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You definitely need to be in shape to hike this route – so don’t take it lightly. There is over 30,000 feet of elevation change on this trip.
The hike starts at the Pretty Hollow Gap trailhead 1.3 miles from the end of the Cataloochee Road at a site called Nellie (near a restored early 1900’s schoolhouse). The route climbs the Pretty Hollow Gap trail to the Mount Sterling Ridge and follows this trail east toward Laurel Gap Shelter. Here it picks up the Balsam Mountain Trail and follows it down to the Balsam Mountain Road for a lengthy road walk to the Balsam Mountain Campground (since the Polls Gap Trail was closed in 2006.)
From the Campground, the route descends to Polls Gap and picks up the Rough Fork Trail that descends back to the terminus of the Cataloochee Road and wide open area that occasionally has elk or wild turkeys wandering in the field. In the last few miles of this thirty mile route, there are some historic homesteads (including the S.L. Woody house which sits on Rough Fork Creek).