Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » anyone been on the Sweat Heifer Trail in the Smokey's?


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rob wil
(AUradar) - F

Locale: FL Panhandle (aka LA)
anyone been on the Sweat Heifer Trail in the Smokey's? on 05/20/2009 08:47:40 MDT Print View

I'm thinking about the following hike in July.

Take AT 1.7 miles to Sweat Heifer Trail
Take Sweat Heifer trail 3.7 miles to Kephart and spend the night. Take Kephart back to the Newfound Gap Road the next day.

My boy (7) will be with me, but I don't think he'll pack any gear. We won't need a tent so I should be able to handle all our stuff.

I'm a little worried as many sites rank Sweat Heifer as difficult, but they are saying going up it (from Kephart to AT) and thats a 2500 elevation climb over 3.7 miles. We will be going down it.

I have found one site that did my walk plan in one day and called it moderate.


So my question is, how tough is Sweat Heifer when going down it?

For some reason I have my heart set on this route, I guess I've read some good reviews of the views along this section of the AT. Can't you see Mt LeMonte from here? This seems like the best route as far as location and distance for us.

The other trails I've looked at seem to be down low with out the mountain views, such as the ones along Deep Creek.

I also think the boy would really like the experience of staying in the shelter.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Sweat Heifer Creek Trail on 05/21/2009 17:18:41 MDT Print View

I have done a lot of backpacking in the Smokies, but have not done that particular trail. I wouldn't think you would get many views from that trial this time of year, and you sure wouldn't be able to see LeConte as it is on the other side of the ridge that AT is on. You have a great view of LeConte from Charlies Bunion which isn't too much farther down the AT. The Brown Book says the upper portion is steep, rocky, and may be overgrown with blackberry brambles, so I would wear long pants.

Brad Fisher
(wufpackfn) - M

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Sweat Heifer Creek Trail on 05/22/2009 06:36:38 MDT Print View

Rob,
I have done a lot of trails in the area, but not the SHT. I have read and heard similar things about the trail quality as Brad Rogers. I have done the AT out to Charles Bunion and it is great. Here are a couple of options:

1. Hike AT to Charles Bunion, double back on the AT and stay at the Icewater Springs shelter. Nice shelter with water close by. Only down side is you are close to Newfound Gap, so expect company. You could also do a side hike out the boulevard trail to jumpoff. You are looking at around 8 miles total, a little more if you go to jumpoff.

2. Hike AT to intersection with boulevard trail (2.7miles), then take Boulevard trail to Mt Leconte shelter(approx 5 miles). This makes for a longer day, but excellent views. The next day you could take the Alum Cave Trail out to Newfound Gap Road. This trail is 5 miles but all downhill and very well maintained. I'm assuming you have a someone picking you up since your hike had you ending on NFG road as opposed to the gap.

I'm sure if you take your hike you will have a great time, just wanted to give you a couple more options.

rob wil
(AUradar) - F

Locale: FL Panhandle (aka LA)
Re: Re: Sweat Heifer Creek Trail on 05/22/2009 07:14:30 MDT Print View

I'm getting the impression that the S-H trail is not widely used. Everyone seems to go on up to Charles Bunion and then do some variation from there, as ya'll both pointed out. I hate going on a crowded trail, but I am planning this for a Tues-Wed or Wed-Thurs hike. So maybe that will help.

I'm just going to have to mull it over some more. The thing I liked about S-H is its a through hike, not a in and back out (for whatever reason). Its a hard 5.5 mile hike the first day, but the Kephart trail the second day appears to be a nice, easy 2 mile walk. That will do the boy good.

I still have a few weeks to decide before I need to call in and make my shelter reservations.

Another thing I like about the S-H trail verse Charles Bunion is I believe there are some creek crossings, water falls, and maybe some swimming holes? probably at least a few places to get your feet wet. I think at 7 the boy will enjoy that more than the mountain views. But, if the trail is to much then you've lost what you've gained.

As ya'll have pointed out, I read some excellent reviews about the Charles Bunion hike, even after dealing with the crowds.

I maybe thinking to much. Yea, the views are great, but its really about getting out on some trails with the boy.

rob wil
(AUradar) - F

Locale: FL Panhandle (aka LA)
bears? on 05/22/2009 07:41:32 MDT Print View

Do I need to worry about bears in this area? I think they just have black bears, which are normally skiddish, correct? But up there I've heard of the wild animals being acclimated to people because of fools feeding them.

What do I need to carry in regards to bears, if anything? Pepper spray is suffiecient, correct?

jackie evans
(jackiethehiker) - F
Smoky Hike on 05/22/2009 07:57:56 MDT Print View

Good views of LeConte going North on the A.T. up to the juntion with S.H. Going down the S.H. I don't recall any views of LeConte. Not a bad trail to go down. Not very much use, so it may be grown up since I hiked it. Good stream crossing from the shelter to the road. Water will be up and cold at this time of year. I don't recall any significant water falls. Good hike for young ones. Bears are common and generally are skidish from my experience.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
SHCT on 05/22/2009 08:52:48 MDT Print View

I saw 3 bears in the park last year. The bears are usually very skiddish and won't bother you on the trail, just be sure to hang your food bag at night. I am not trying to discourage your Kephart trip, but I can vouch for the LeConte loop going in via the Boulevard and out Alum Cave is a really nice loop. The AT out to Charlies Bunion and the Alum Cave Trail are both crowded, but going mid week should help.

Brad Fisher
(wufpackfn) - M

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: SHCT on 05/22/2009 16:03:30 MDT Print View

Rob,
If you have your heart set on the SH then by all means do it. I've hiked a lot in the Smokies and have never had a bad trip. Some are better, but all are good.

Mid week will help a lot. You will see some people, but most don't hike out very far.

If you think your son would like swimming and you are not set on ridge top views, then you might want to consider the Big Creek trail. Excellent swimming holes and most of the hike is beside Big Creek. Just another options, which is probably the last thing you needed.

I wouldn't worry about the bears. Just black bears and I have never seen one in all my trips. Plenty in the park, but they usually stay away. I don't take pepper spray, just hang you food at night. The shelters have a nice cable system to make it easy. Your bigger problem will be the mice in the shelter. Now they can be a real pain and they love to chew expensive gear.

Whatever you decide I'm sure you will have a great time with your son. Give us a trip report when you return.

rob wil
(AUradar) - F

Locale: FL Panhandle (aka LA)
update on 06/15/2009 10:32:39 MDT Print View

thanks for all the advice guys. I just called this morning and made reservations for the Kephart trail. I decided to do the Sweat Heiffer trail.

The Charlie Bunnion route sounds awesome though. I'm just a bit scared of the distance. I feel more comfortable with the 5.5 mile, harder walk the first day down the Sweat Heifer trail and then the easy 2 mile the second day on the Kephart trail. Any loop going around the Charlie Bunnon would be to long I'm afraid. And I really didn't want to do a in and out for whatever reason.

Besides that, in doing internet research I found a picture of a sign that said "Charlies Bunnion, Control your kids". I showed my wife and then she got scared and said no to that. Over reacting, but I didn't want to press the issue.

As for Deep Creek, we are staying at Bryson City just outside the Deep Creek entrance to hte park. We plan on doing day hikes around there and do some tubing. The younger kids will go with us on those hikes

thanks again for the help