Cabins USA Logo
Loading Page
RESERVATIONS
(800) 583-6168
Cabins USA Availability Search IconAvailability Search Small Icon


Hike To Rocky Top & Spence Field – Cabins USA

Area Info : What To Do : Outdoor Adventures : Hiking : Hike To Rocky Top in the Smoky Mountains

Spence Field and Rocky Top are two popular overlooks along the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are located on Thunderhead Mountain and feature truly breathtaking views of the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Though the views are inspiring, this hike is not for beginners. The primary trails to Rocky Top are steep and require over 10 miles of hiking to reach the destination. If you do plan to hike Rocky Top, start early in the day and bring plenty of food and water to stay nourished during this long hike.

Directions

There are two primary routes to Rocky Top. Both routes meet up with Bote Mountain Trail and follow the Appalachian Trail north bound to the summit.

The trailheads for Rocky Top are located just before the Cades Cove loop road.

Route #1: Lead Cove Trail

The Lead Cove Trail shares a trailhead with the Finley Cane Trail. From the Townsend "Wye," drive 5.6 miles on the Laurel Creek Road towards Cades Cove. The parking area for the trail is on the left.

This trail offers the shortest route to Rocky Top and Spence Field with a round-trip distance of 11.8 miles. Hikers will take the Lead Cove Trail 1.8 miles until it intersects with Bote Mountain Trail. Hikers will then continue on right on Bote Mountain Trail until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail. Turn right on the Appalachian Trail to continue towards Spence Field.

Route #2: Anthony Creek Trail

Anthony Creek Trail begins in the Cades Cove Campground. With a round-trip distance of 13.9 miles to Rocky Top, this route is slightly longer than the Lead Cove Route.

To reach Rocky Top, hikers will take the Anthony Creek Trail 3.5 miles to the Bote Mountain Trail. From here, they will turn right on Bote Mountain Trail and follow it another 1.7 miles until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail. Spence Field is only a about 100 yards after turning right on the AT.

Spence Field

View From Spence Field

On the way to Rocky Top and the summit of Thunderhead Mountain, hikers will come to Spence Field, an open field with stunning views that straddles the high ridge of the Smokies. At an elevation of 4,928 feet, Spence Field is a beautiful destination in its own right.

Spence Field is named for James Spence, an early settler who built a hunting cabin near this area in 1830.

Before the national park was established, this area of the ridge was a large grazing pasture for sheep and cattle. In the summer, Cades Cove residents would bring their herds up to Spence Field to feast on the rich mountain grasses.

However, animals no longer graze these mountain balds, so these fields are gradually becoming overgrown with time.

If you arrive at Spence Field in June, you can see a spectacular display of pink and white mountain laurel. After several miles of climbing, this spot is a great place to rest before climbing to Rocky Top or making a return trip.

By looking north from Spence Field, you'll be able to see Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top, the closest subpeak to Spence Field.

Rocky Top

View From Rocky Top in the Smokies

From Spence Field, hikers must travel another 1.2 miles north-bound on the Appalachian Trail to reach Rocky Top.

This last section of the hike is perhaps the most difficult, as you'll have to climb another 550 vertical feet to reach the summit.

However, after a steep climb on the Appalachian Trail, hikers will eventually reach a rocky outcrop that features incredible views of the Smoky Mountains. Rocky Top is at an elevation of 5,440' above sea level.

If you started your trip at Anthony Creek Trail, you would have hiked almost 7 miles and climbed over 3,000 vertical feet to reach this point.

To the south, Spence Field, Cades Cove, and Gregory Bald are visible, while to the north, hikers can see Mt. LeConte and Clingman's Dome.

Rocky Top isn't the highest peak on Thunderhead Mountain, but it surely has the best views. If hikers would like to summit Thunderhead, they'll have to continue .4 miles further on the AT. At this point, you will have reached the 5,527 foot summit, but tall brush makes the views lackluster.

Many speculate that Rocky Top (one of the subpeaks on Thunderhead Mountain) inspired the song Rocky Top, written by Felice and Boudleux Bryant in Gatlinburg, TN in 1967. This tune is now a favorite of the University of Tennessee and an official song of the state of Tennessee.

View From Rocky Top on the Appalachian Trail

The Bottom Line

The hike to Spence Field and Rocky Top is one of the longest and most challenging hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Once hikers reach the Appalachian Trail, they'll be treated to some of the most stunning scenery in the Smoky Mountains. As an added perk, after you complete your hike, you can say that you've experienced one of the most iconic mountains in all of the Smokies.

Contact:


Thunderhead Mountain, Tennessee 37882

Google map from Cabins USA to Hike To Rocky Top in the Smoky Mountains.
A - Cabins USA
B - Hike To Rocky Top in the Smoky Mountains

Written by

Please Note: Cabins USA LLC's, hereinafter referred to as Cabins USA, area information, area events, and blog pages are provided as a public service. Cabins USA does not endorse any of the products, vendors, consultants, or businesses referenced in these web pages. Any mention of vendors, products, businesses, or services on the Cabins USA web site is for informational purposes only. Users of this web site are responsible for checking the accuracy, completeness, currency and/or suitability of all information. The inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement by Cabins USA. Furthermore, specific questions regarding any content should be directed to the appropriate organization and not necessarily to Cabins USA.

Cabins USA Official Logo
starstarstarstarstar
2140 Parkway
Pigeon Forge, TN  37863
(865) 429-4121

VLS #157
Pigeon Forge Cabins
Guest Reservations
(800) 583-6168
2 Night Minimum















































Cabins USA Help Icon
Join Our Newsletter
Guest Sign In
Copyright 2013-2016, Cabins USA LLC, Pigeon Forge, TN

Interested in receiving our newsletter? Simply provide your full name and email address in these fields to begin receiving information. By doing so, you can learn about special promotions and events in the Smoky Mountains!

We respect our customer's privacy and feel it is disrespectful to bombard anyone with emails. We treat all information that customers share with us as private and confidential. Cabins USA never shares this information with third party sites.

Arrival Date: Mandatory, select or enter date you will arrive (MM/DD/YYYY)

Nights: Mandatory, select or enter the number of Nights you will be staying with us

Promotional Code: Must enter a valid code

Optional Search Items: (Amenties, Cities, etc)
Below are several boxes in which you can either select from a drop down list or click on a check box to the left of an item to select.

Changing the contents of any drop down list or selecting/deselecting a check box will broaden or narrow the number of properties displayed by your search. You don't have to wait until the search completes to select/deselect items for your perfect search.

You must hit the SEARCH button to start your first search. It is unnecessary to hit the SEARCH button after doing your first search, unless you changed to another web page, changed the Arrival Date or number of Nights.

Add to Favorites: As you visit individual property pages or pages with listings of several properties on them, you have the option to click on the "+ Favorites" for each particular property, which automatically adds the property to your list of Favorites for consideration. The number next to the Favorites tab, left sidebar, will increase up to 99 possible Favorites. When ready, click on the Favorites tab to view a list of your selected Favorites.

Remove from Favorites: You may de-select (remove) properties from your Favorites you no longer wish to consider by either clicking on the minus icon to the right or by clicking on the "- Favorites" displayed on property list pages and each property details page for properties listed in your Favorites.

Compare Favorites: Click in the check boxes to the left of the property name, in your Favorites, you wish to compare. No more than 3 boxes may be selected at one time. When ready, hit the Compare button for a comparison of the 3 selected properties.

Follow the above "Remove from Favorites" instructions to remove a property from the comparison and your Favorites.

To add another property from your Favorites list for comparison, click the check box to the left of the property name in your Favorites and hit the Compare button.

Repeat the above steps to find your ultimate vacation accommodations. Need assistance or have questions, please give us a call so we may better serve you!

View List: Displays a full list of all your Favorites with some details.

Remove All: Clears all properties from your Favorites so you may start over.