I spoke to a ranger about various hikes from the Cosby campground and he advised me about a classic hike that a lot of people partake. I was actually planning on summiting Mt. Guyot but the ranger advised against it, saying I’d be gaining an immediate 2,000 feet then dropping the same almost instantaneously. I’ll probably still do the hike I had in mind but considering the time of year I plan on going, I went with his advice. I tried to get the standard campsite reservations that starts at Gabes Mountain Trailhead to campsite #34 then to campsite #29 and exiting at Snake Den Ridge Trailhead but campsite #34 was booked on Friday night. So, we will be starting at the Snake Den Ridge Trailhead and hiking to campsite #29 on Friday and on to #34 on Saturday night and exiting at Gabes Mountain Trailhead.
This hike, from what the ranger tells me will make the first day quite a difficult uphill climb but once that’s out of the way the rest of the hike will be fairly easy. Per the ranger the route we will take on Friday will climb about 3,200 feet in 4.6 miles so it will be a good workout and I’m sure we will be ready to rest by the time we get to camp. Then another 1.6 miles to campsite #29. It is a fairly moderate hike that won’t have too much elevation change and includes some great highlights and would therefore, be ideal for a winter hike. I thought it sounded great and the more I researched it the better it sounded.
The Albright Grove Loop Trail will be the first highlight that we should arrive at around mile 8.6 from the Snake Den Ridge Trailhead. It’s about .7 of a mile semi-loop and takes you through an old hardwood forest that has some of the oldest trees in the park. Hen Wallow Falls will be around mile 15 and the last highlight on this hike. It’s about 2.2 miles from Gabes Mountain Trailhead so I imagine it sees quite a bit of action during the warmer months and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was buzzing in the winter too. But either way I’m willing to check it out for myself and I can’t wait! Maddron Bald is another great highlight on this trip that will make it that much better. It’s a typical bald that gives you the ability to see for miles.
2/27/15 – Upon arriving at the entrance to the Cosby Campground we found snow and lots of it! The road was closed because of the snow so we had to park at the maintenance area and walk 1.7 miles to the Snake Den Ridge Trailhead. It was a nice walk uphill and the whole area was blanketed in about 8 or 10 inches of snow. Our walk took us through the campground itself where we considered pitching our tents at one of the campsites which would have been awesome. The whole area was deserted and looking beautiful and so serene except for the several torn up areas where the wild boars had rooted for nuts or whatever else they could get find.
The Snake Den Ridge Trailhead was fairly easy to find and as soon as we started up the trail we knew this would be a challenging hike because of the 8-10 inches of snow that blanketed the trail. There were no other footprints so we were making our own tracks all the way up the hill. Now, I’m not in the best of shape but I’ve done some tough hikes but this trail was pretty darn tough. If it was a spring or fall hike it may not have been that tough but with the snow, extra winter clothing and the fact that I wasn’t trying to keep my pack weight low, it was very challenging.
The trail goes up and up and up from the elevation of 2,460 feet @ the Cosby campground to a whopping 5,212 feet at Maddron Bald, I don’t remember the exact time we started but it was around 2:00pm eastern time when we first stepped foot on the Snake Den Ridge Trail.
We arrived at campsite #29 at around 7:15pm eastern that evening so we had been hiking in the dark for a good hour. It was very cold but it wasn’t windy and the sights were beautiful with the snow all around so it was well worth the effort. We were very thankful when we saw the trail sign at the junction of Snake Den Ridge Trail and Maddron Bald Trail because this told us our climb was over and we could finally start heading downhill on the Maddron Bald Trail to campsite #29. It’s only a 1.6 mile hike to campsite #29 from this junction so we knew we could knock it out in no time going downhill. Although we were hiking in the dark the snow gave us enough light to hike fairly confidently even though the ice and snow took away a little of that confidence. Once we arrived at the campsite we quickly found some available flat ground and got our temporary homes set up and then prepared our dinners. Needless to say it was an early night due to the fact that it was getting very cold and there was virtually no dry wood available which made the possibility of a fire pretty slim at this point. It got down around 10 degrees that night, brrrrr!
2/28/15 – We were all pretty hesitant to emerge from our warm cocoons the next morning and didn’t end up leaving the campsite until around 11:00am which was very late by my standards. Once we hit the trail we moved fast because today would be a mostly downhill hike and we were anxious to check out the Albright Loop where the old growth trees were located. The Albright loop is about a .7 mile loop that shoots off the Maddron Bald Trail and re-enters it a little farther down the trail. It is a fairly mild trail that is full of giant trees that I’d really like to see when the trees are in full foliage. When we arrived at the junction where the other end of the Albright Loop meets the Maddron Bald Trail we stopped for lunch. It’s a perfect place to stop and eat under some giant hemlocks. After lunch we continued on our way to our next temporary home at campsite #34 where we hoped to arrive there around 5’ish. This would give us plenty of time to set up our tents; collect firewood and sit by the fire all night until bedtime. It was supposed to be a warmer night too so that would be a welcome addition to the evening. Our next junction would be the Maddron Bald Trail to Gabes Mountain Trail junction where we would hike about 1.8 miles to campsite #34.
Just after this junction the trail made a little bit of climbing that was to be our toughest part of the day. It wasn’t bad at all. We arrived at campsite #34 at around 4:50pm and were pleasantly surprised to find we had it all to ourselves at that point so we had the pick of where we wanted to set up our tents. Needless to say there was a decent amount of flat ground at the first site right off the trail so we had our tents set up in no time at all and began our quest for firewood. Finding plenty of firewood was pretty easy because there was a good bit of dead and down trees in the area so we were quite happy. We stocked up plenty and proceeded to build our fire. Unfortunately, although we worked quite diligently at it we couldn’t get a good solid fire that burned more than just mid-sized sticks. This was a disappointment but with the night being much warmer it worked out quite well. That night was quite interesting because as is typical of the Smoky Mountains the winds can whip up at anytime and when they do they can get pretty intense. So intense that I left my warm Enlightened Equipment Revelation Pro quilt and staked out my tent to keep it from blowing away with me in it. Well, just as soon as I got back to my tent from the task the wind died down so I just smiled and went back to sleep. This turned out to be a great night even though the fire was a bit of a disappointment.
3/1/15 – Woke up to warmer weather, ate breakfast and hit the trail by 10:30am which wasn’t exactly great but was better than yesterday so we were quite happy with it. This was to be an easy day of nothing but downhill hiking all the way to the campground, or at least that’s what we thought. But then mother nature threw in a little curveball by way of downed trees in the trail which caused quite a bit of delay. No worries because we arrived back at the vehicle at around 2:00pm so all worked out well.
GEAR LIST FOR THIS TRIP – I took a lot of extras on this trip in the way of food and my wood stove so the weight will reflect that.
|ASOLO FUGITIVE BOOTS||50.00|
|Mountainsmith Falcon 55 Backpack
|Kelty Rain Cover Large
|Big Agnes Lone Spring 1 Tent W/Big Agnes Lone Spring 1 Footprint/SMALL SILNYLON TARP IN Outdoor Research Lightweight 5 Liter Dry Sack
|SEA TO SUMMIT EXPANDER SLEEPING BAG LINER (USED AS MATTRESS COVER)||11.00|
|COLUMBIA LINER BAG||10.20|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION PRO QUILT IN SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA-SIL COMPRESSION SACK||29.00|
|EXPED MINI PUMP||2.00|
|THERMAREST RIDGEREST SOLITE REGULAR CUT DOWN TO 20X60||12.00|
|EXPED SYNMAT UL 9 LW||29.00|
|Easton Trekking Poles||20.00|
|Grabber Space Blanket||12.80|
|2 NIGHT FOOD – LOKSAK OPSAK BARRIER BAGS 28X20″ (2PK) AND ZPACKS BLAST FOOD BAG||85.00|
|CORD/BEAR BAG KIT – TARP CORDAGE – BEAR BAG HANG CORDAGE & CARABINER MESH BAG||7.00|
|MINI COMPASS AND TEMP GAUGE||0.70|
|ZPACKS CUBEN FIBER ZIP WALLET||2.00|
|SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER (2OZ), ONE SQUEEZE BAG (1.5OZ), SCOOP BAG IN MESH BAG||3.8|
|SAFETY LANYARD – Bear Grylls Compact Scout Knife/Adventure Medical Kits Sol Slim Rescue Howler Whistle/INOVA MICROLIGHT||2.80|
|TOILETRY KIT – MEDICINE/TOOTHBRUSH/TOOTHPASTE ETC IN OUTDOOR RESEARCH SMALL DRY DITTY SACK||10.40|
|FIRE KIT: DRYER LINT/LIGHTER/LIGHT MY FIRE FIRESTEEL||2.80|
|POTTY KIT – DEUCE OF SPADES, TOILET PAPER, HAND CLEANER/HOLDER IN NYLON DITTY BAG||4.30|
|MARMOT RAIN JACKET||17.20|
|OR ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH GAITERS||8.10|
|WINTER CLOTHING BAG 2 NIGHT QUILT SETUP: WOOL SOCKS/MIDWEIGHT WOOL THERMAL BOTTOMS, T-SHIRT, LIGHTWEIGHT WOOL THERMAL BOTTOMS IN 2 LITER SILNYLON STUFF SACK||23.00|
|EDDIE BAUER FIRST ASCENT IGNITER JACKET||23.40|
|NIKE RAIN PANTS||12.40|
|SEIRUS GLOVES WATERPROOF FLEECE LINED||3.60|
|MARMOT VARIANT JACKET||14.00|
|SOLO STOVE W/ALCOHOL BURNER/ALCOHOL/SNOW PEAK TREK 900 TITANIUM COOKSET/PRIMUS LONG HANDLED TITANIUM SPOON/LIGHT MY FIRE PLASTIC SPORK/GSI INFINITY BACKPACKER MUG||33.05|
|WOOD FOR STOVE||8.00|
|WATER BOTTLES – BLADDERS|
|CAMELBAK PODIUM BOTTLE 24 OZ WITH EDDY SIP LID FULL||29.00|
|SMARTWATER 33.8 OZ LARGE BOTTLE FULL||37.40|
|PRINCETON TECH REMIX HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK||3.50|
|MIRROR / COMPASS / MOUNTAIN LAUREL DESIGNS CUBEN FIBER BAG||1.50|
|Bahco 396-LAP Laplander Folding Saw, 8-Inch Blade, 7 TPI
|MP3 PLAYER; EARPHONES; BATTERY IN HMG NANO CF11 CUBEN STUFF SACK||5.30|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES||668.75|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS||41.80|
My Final take…. This is a hike that has it all – both challenging and beautiful. In the direction we went your first day has a lot of elevation gain and can be very tough with a backpack on and 8-10″ of snow on the ground. If I did this hike again I’d either start from the Gabes Mountain Trailhead or opt for a warm weather hike because climbing the Snake Den Ridge Trail with the snow, extra clothing and a heavy pack is very challenging. I’ve been on tougher hikes and climbs but this is definitely nothing to scoff at with all of the factors thrown in there. Thanks to my hiking friends for giving me the strength just by watching them hammer up the hill!
Here are some links to information about this hike:
WWW.HIKINGINTHESMOKYS.COM – ALBRIGHT GROVE LOOP