Day 2 of our Smoky Mountains National Park trip we decided to hike on the Appalachian Trail. Charles Bunion was our chosen hike and after a long day on Trillium Gap Trail the day before, we were excited to do a shorter trail. Charlies Bunion is a popular rock outcropping eastbound from Newfound Gap on the AT. Upon arrival at the parking lot, we noticed it was very busy. This may have been due to our trail start time was a little later than normal approx. 9:30 am (note to self – start earlier). But we found a parking space without too much effort.
It was quite hectic at the trailhead with many thru-hikers (Appalachian Trail hikers for the entire 2100 miles) getting back on the trail. After chatting with a thru-hiker, I learned there is a bus that will transport them into Gatlinburg. Many take advantage of a burger, hotel stay (shower), and a down day after arriving at Newfound Gap. You could tell the thru-hikers were anxious to break away from the crowded trailhead, I am sure after so much solitude it seems overwhelming. We donned our pack, set our poles and hit the trail. It started out with a lengthy 1/2 mile (or more) of steps made from landscaping timbers and mulch but quickly turned into the normal AT terrain afterward. It was a steady climb with some awesome vistas approx. 2 miles in.
Most of the trail hovered around 6000 ft elevation, with stunning views, we felt like we were walking on the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. At approx 2.7 miles the Boulevard Trail to Monte LeConte (which we hiked on a different trail the day before) forks off to the left but we headed straight to continue towards Charlies Bunion. Don’t worry Boulevard Trail you are on my list!
At about 1/4 mile further we arrived at the Icewater Spring shelter. While it was cool to check out the shelter, It was very crowded with thru-hikers so I was reluctant to take photos.
Approx. 4 miles we reached the spur that lead us to our destination. I am not a fan of heights especially in a crowded area, so Chris took these photos. Yes, that is a guy with a drone….
To the North you can see Mt Kephart and the Jump Off to the West, with Mount Guyot towards the east.
While this trail was crowded it had a wide variety of hikers and trail runners of all ages. It brought me back to, “it’s just one foot in front of the other”, it’s not how fast you go or how far just “GO”.
I am really behind on my posts, but have some AMAZING photos and trails to share. If you haven’t already signed up for blog, please do so!
Roundtrip Length 8.1 Miles
Highest Elevation 6122 Feet
Total Elevation Gain 1640 Feet
Trail Rating Strenuous