View Full Version : Noland Divide Trail
George P Burdell
Iím considering a two night trip to the top of Clingmanís Dome. Can anyone tell me about the Noland Divide trail? I really canít find much info about it other than distance and (a lot of) elevation gain. Is it blazed and easy to follow, or will I need to keep a compass and topo map in hand? Are there creeks that have to be forded? Is it correct that I have to make a campsite reservation even in the middle of winter for reservable sites? Itís a bummer that there isnít a campsite closer to the summit.
I found this trip report from Jan 2008
never done the trail, but i know the Lonesome Pine overlook is on this trail, about three miles from the Deep Creek Trailhead. this is a ridge hike so you wont have any major stream crossings.
Jeff Wadley just recently added a TR on the hike to the overlook and back:
I've never busted out the compass on any smokies trails... bring it, of course, but the trails are pretty well traveled and there aren't too many intersections in the park that aren't signed. there are a few spur trails leading to old cemeteries but they *usually don't stray too far from the main trail.
you are supposed to call and get reservations for the Pink campsites, thought i seriously doubt you'll have a problem this time, or any time of year. you probably wont see much of anybody, especially past the overlook, with Clingman's Rd Closed and all.
1.It will not be blazed, as none of the trails are in the park except the AT, but it should be very easy to follow. The trails in the park are well traveled and maintained well. I'm not telling you not to take a map and compass, but you shouldn't need them and I often go on trails in the park without them.
2. No creek crossings
3. You have to get reservations for reserved sites even in the winter but I don't think there are any campsites on the Noland Divide Trail.
It has been more than a year since I hiked it, bottom to top. There's a lot of elevation change, but other than that, it's not a hard trail. Navigation is easy. All you would need is the $1 map you can buy at any of the self-serve kiosks at the ranger stations.
Bear in mind that the Clingman's Dome road is not open now and that there are no campsites along that trail. Campsite #61 requires reservations but I sincerely doubt you'd have any problem getting a few spaces any time during the next few months. Even during the high season, very few campsites are hard to get reservations at.
A couple of years ago, during the winter, I did a circular hike. Parked at Deep Creek, hiked up Noland Divide and across Pole Road Cr. Tr. Camped at campsite #56, which does not require reservations. Hiked back out along Sunkota Ridge Trail.
Hello. I stumbled across this forum recently, and being interested in all things Smokies, decided to join in.
I've run/fast hiked the Noland Divide Trail each of the past two winters, from Deep Creek up to Clingmans Dome Road and back the first time, and from Deep Creek up to the Clingman summit and back last year. I hang around the Deep Creek area a lot, mostly for trail running.
There is a small creek just a few feet after the trail starts, but there's a footlog there. The trail starts some serious climbing from the get-go, and I recall several small streams the trail crosses as it rounds through the head of a couple of coves in the first few miles. You should be able to cross them without getting wet. After that, the trail attains the ridgeline and I don't recall any more streams of any size.
After an initial steep climb of 3 or 4 miles, the trail evens out for a few miles of easier hiking until it begins the final steep climb through the spruce and fir forest up toward Clingmans Dome Road. As others have said, the trail is totally easy to follow all the way. There are some great places, maybe 3 or 4 miles in, where you're walking along a razorback ridge, much like at Charlies Bunion, where you've got a couple of feet of trail and dramatic drop-offs and views on either side.
If I was planning a winter trip up there, I'd be sure to check the LeConte snow depth, because you're likely to find about the same amount of snow on top of Clingman.
The Noland Divide Trail is a great trail. It's exciting to start in the lower elevation cove forest and climb all the way up into the spruce-fir zone.
A note: Be careful if you decide to turn off on that Pole Road Creek Trail. Two years, ago, during a high water time, I tried to use that trail to get from the Noland Divide Trail back down to the Deep Creek Trail, and completely lost the trail in a maze of small streams and evergreens. Had to backtrack.
George P Burdell
Thanks for all the info; this should be a great hike. 21 inches of snow on Le Conte- the more, the better in my opinion.
is there a trail of any sorts going directly to the A T from the N trailhead of the Noland divide trail?? It looks like a short walk either way on the rd to a shorter bushwack over to the A T if there's no defined trail
did the highest part of the trail (about 3 miles) in a loop from clingmans dome during november. don't remember many views except for the intersection with the noland creek trail, and you''ll have to walk the last 1.5 miles up clingmans dome road to get to the parking lot and another .5 mile to get to the top
You really ought to get the Brow Book.
Gollwoods, I'm recalling the location at which the Noland Divide Trail reaches Clingmans Dome Road. I remember a bank/rockcut just across the road that would block direct access to the AT. If your aim is to get on the AT as easily as possible without hiking the afforementioned 1.5 miles to the CD parking lot, I think that if you head right on the road (towards Newfound Gap) you don't have much of a walk to reach the gap between Clingman and Mount Collins, and at that point the AT is just a short rock throw from the road across flat ground.
After leaving the Noland Divide Trail, if you head left on the road (toward Clingman) I suspect the road and AT generally grow further apart, and to go between the two might require some bushwhacking/rockcut climbing.