Is the Roundtop Trail the Least-Traveled Hiking Trail in the Smokies?

October 26, 2023

Are you looking for a less crowded Smoky Mountain hike with beautiful views, a peaceful river, wildflowers in the summer, and a relatively flat trail? Roundtop Trail checks all of those boxes and offers so much more! Keep reading to find out more about Roundtop Trail, one of the least-traveled hiking trails in the Smokies! 

Trail Length  7.5 miles
Trail Difficulty moderate
Trail Highlights  solitude, river crossing, forest


Roundtop Trail is an out-and-back trail; however, we recommend utilizing the two-car hike approach and hiking from one trailhead to the other for a moderate day hike under 8 miles. Otherwise, you would need to hike over 14 miles, which for many novice hikers, would be too much for just one day. So you can start your hike at either end of the trail– the trailhead located at Townsend Y or the trailhead just past the Wear’s Cove Gap entrance to the national park. We suggest starting at the Wear’s Cove Gap entrance, which is just north of Metcalf Bottoms so that you can end your hike with the river crossing at Townsend Y. There’s nothing better than cooling off in the water after a long hike!

Trail Description 

man on smoky mountain hiking trailIf you begin at the Wear’s Cove Gap trailhead, you will begin a slight climb to the highest point of the hike, which is called Joint Ridge, about 2.4 miles along Roundtop Trail. You will be able to admire views of Cove Mountain, Thunderhead Mountain, and surrounding scenery at this point. After a gain of about 800 feet, you’ll actually begin a decent descent for the majority of the hike, which in places can be a little narrow and steep. Once you reach the 7.5-mile mark, you will need to cross the Little River to reach the Townsend Y. You won’t find a bridge at this crossing, so be prepared to get a little wet!

Insider Tips

Here are a few more things you should know before hiking the Roundtop Trail: 

  • Check the weather– if there has been recent heavy rain, crossing the Little River at Townsend Y may not be possible. 
  • Since there is no bridge at the river crossing, make sure to wear proper water shoes. 
  • Don’t forget to purchase a parking pass before starting your hike!
  • There is one steep section of the trail, so hiking poles are a great help, as well as for the river crossing. 
  • Bring a picnic to enjoy at either the Townsend Y or Metcalf Bottoms at the end of your hike!
  • You will find a lot of native wildflowers along this trail in the spring and summer.

Now you know all about the Roundtop Trail in the national park! Are you interested in learning more about quiet, less crowded hikes? Check out the Curry Mountain Trail, another underrated trail in the Smoky Mountains.