Discover a Hidden Gem in the Smokies: Rock House on Old Sugarlands Trail

February 09, 2023

We know how much you love to find secret spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and there’s a pretty unusual one you’ll want to find next! Known as the stone cottage or the rock house, this manmade homestead is tucked away off the path of Old Sugarlands Trail. Find out how to get there, the history behind this hidden gem, and much more!

How to Get to The Rock House

Old Sugarlands Trail is located in the old Sugarlands community of the national park. This trail is 3 miles one way, so a total of 6 miles round trip. As soon as you get on the path, you’ll notice a junction, and you should stay to the right. You’ll pass a cliff on the left that was an old rock quarry that was used for road supplies in the area.

old sugarlands trail sign

At 0.7 miles into the trail, you’ll come to another intersection where you should veer right and follow the trail towards the river. You’ll continue thorough the woods until 1.5 miles where you’ll veer away from the river and come to another junction where you should stay to the right. If you look through the trees here, you might see the Civilian Conservation Corps clock tower (it looks like a monument with plaques missing).

Just a short walk from this section of the trail is another junction where, again, you’ll go right. Then you’ll spot a three-sided stone structure on the left, which used to be a CCC trash incinerator.

At 2.2 miles, you’ll come to an intersection where you should go right and follow the road to the top of the hill. Once you reach 2.35 miles, you’ll get off the road and head left into the woods until you see a beaten footpath. You’ll follow this path on Old Sugarlands Trail until you reach the Big Branch stream. You will need to cross it to get to the stone cottage, but be cautious, especially after a significant amount of rain.

The Stone Cottage

Once you reach this rock house, you’ll see most of the structure is still intact, although there is no roof. The largest section contains old remnants of a bed frame and a fireplace. To the right of the main room, there’s a doorway that leads to a smaller room, which likely could have been the kitchen because there is an old rusty gas stove. There are two entrances into the structure from the smaller room and the larger room.

According to the records at the Sugarlands park headquarters, this rock house was a private fishing cabin built by a Knoxville outdoorsman named Shelby Layman. He acquired the land in 1926 and then built the rock house in 1927. After the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1932, he sold the property to the National Park Service for a lifetime lease. Layman used his lodge until 1937. This stone cottage is one of the many remains you can find along Old Sugarlands Trail.

Now you now about this hidden gem along Old Sugarlands Trail. Are you excited about finding other hidden gems while you’re visiting the national park? Check out these secret spots in the Smoky Mountains!