Hiking the Chestnut Top Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains

June 27, 2023

If you’re looking for a moderate day hike with beautiful views and plenty of wildflowers along the trail, you need to add Chestnut Top Trail to your hiking bucket list! Before you get out there to explore, here’s everything you need to know about hiking the Chestnut Top Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains:

Round Trip Length 8.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 1,486 Feet
Trail Highlights wildflowers and views


road in Townsend TNThe Chestnut Top Trailhead is just past the Townsend Wye on Route 73. From downtown Gatlinburg, you’ll start driving along US 441, then turn right after the Sugarlands Visitors Center onto Little River Road. You’ll drive a little over 17 miles to the Townsend Y, where you’ll turn right on Route 73. The trailhead is on the left-hand side, and the trailhead parking lot is across the road on the right-hand side. 

Trail Description

This trail is most popular with backpackers and experienced hikers, but those looking for a day hike will enjoy the mostly wooded, shaded trail, lots of beautiful plant life, and views of Townsend. The Chestnut Top Trail is considered a strenuous hike with a moderate climb with a total elevation of 1,486 feet. But if you’re just looking for a short wildflower hike, we suggest enjoying the first half-mile to a mile before turning around and heading back to your vehicle. Hiking further is definitely worth the effort, though, due to the mountain views visible along the ridge and at the summit of the trail, Chestnut Top. You can enjoy sporadic views of not only Townsend, TN but also Tuckaleechee Cove. After about 4.3 miles, you’ll approach the intersection of the Schoolhouse Gap Trail, marking the end of the Chestnut Top Trail.

Insider Tips

white trillium wildflower along a hiking trail in the smoky mountainsSo what else should you know before you go hiking on this trail in the Smokies? Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Peak wildflower season is during April and May, but some varieties can start blooming as early as late March. Wildflowers you can see on this trail are bloodroot, yellow and white trillium, violets, hepatica, phacelia, bishop’s cap, wild stonecrop, and more.
  • There are still plenty of wildflowers that continue to bloom in the summertime, including squawroot, jewelweed, butterfly weed, a small yellow flower called rattlesnake hawkweed, and purple flowers commonly known as hairy beardtongue.
  • Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free; however, a parking tag is required for vehicles parking longer than 15 minutes.
  • Bring a picnic, drinks, and plenty of snacks since this is a longer hike.
  • Cool off after your hike with a dip in the Little River at the Townsend Wye!

Now you know what to expect if you decide to hike the Chestnut Top Trail! Do you want to learn about more hiking trails to explore? Check out these stunning Smoky Mountain waterfall hikes!