Everything You Need to Know About Schoolhouse Gap Trail in the Smokies

November 29, 2023

Are you looking for a short, relatively easy trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Then you should consider Schoolhouse Gap Trail, a quiet forest hike! While there is no schoolhouse to be found along this trail, it most likely got its name from the children who probably walked through the area to get to school in nearby Townsend. Take a look at all of the details about Schoolhouse Gap Trail:

Trail Length ~4 miles roundtrip
Trail Difficulty easy, family-friendly
Trail Highlights  wildflowers, quiet forest, minimal climbing


Schoolhouse Gap Trail is one of several hiking trails near Cades Cove and is considered one of the best hikes for families. You can get to the trailhead from the Townsend “Y” by driving on Laurel Creek Road towards Cades Cove. After nearly 4 miles, you’ll come to a parking area for the trailhead on the right-hand side of the road.

Trail Description

white oaks sinks waterfallOne of the many reasons this Smoky Mountain hiking trail is so popular with families is because it’s a relatively wide trail with few rocky areas, so you can walk side by side. Also, with just over 500 feet in elevation gain, this hike isn’t too strenuous since there’s very little steep climbing. Wildflowers bloom in abundance along this trail in the spring and summer, from mountain laurel, bluebells, and trillium to rhododendron, purple ironflower, and more. It’s also a popular area to view wildlife! Birdwatchers will also love this area, as many different species have been spotted, including owls. 

You’ll begin the hike by walking along a peaceful stream. You may meet horseback riders along this trail, another reason why the trail is so wide. About a mile into the hike, you’ll see an unmarked fork to the left, which leads to White Oak Sinks, a beautiful area with a small waterfall and cliff area, as well as  Blowhole cave. This cavern is aptly named, as you can feel an icy blast of air gusting from its mouth. The cave is not open for exploring, however, as it’s home to bats. The Schoolhouse Gap Trail ends at the junction to the Chestnut Top Trail, nearly 2 miles from the trailhead. 

Insider Tips 

We highly recommend experiencing this quiet forest hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains during your next vacation! Here are a few more things to know about Schoolhouse Gap Trail before you go:

  • If you’re thinking about hiking this trail during the colder months, be sure to follow these winter hiking tips for the best experience! 
  • Plan your hike for the late spring or early summer to see the most wildflowers. 
  • Bears and other types of wildlife are commonly sighted along this trail. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind these wildlife viewing tips
  • If you want a longer hike, continue on to the Chestnut Top Trail rather than turning around at the junction, which will take you all the way to the Townsend “Y”. 

Now you know all about Schoolhouse Gap Trail in the Smokies! Are you interested in other Smoky Mountain activities nearby? Check out some fun things to do in Cades Cove this winter!