Mount Cammerer - Smoky Mountains
Reach expansive views of the Great Smoky Mountains from atop the summit of Mount Cammerer.
There are over 800 miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It would be impossible to classify any particular section of the park as superior. Each area has distinct characteristics and unique options for exploring the diverse forests found within the park’s boundaries. That said, if you happen to find yourself in the Cosby section of the park, on the northeastern end, you can’t go wrong with the hike to the Mount Cammerer Lookout.
The hike to Mount Cammerer’s summit begins at the Cosby Picnic area in the northeastern end of the park, on the Tennessee side. If you are staying in the campground, an alternate trailhead is just a short walk from your site, at the end of B Loop. Pick up the Low Gap Trail as it winds through the valley. The trail begins to climb quickly, paralleling Cosby Creek as it tumbles into the valley. Much of your elevation gain will be along this 2.8 mile section.
At the top of the ridge, the Low Gap Trail meets the Appalachian Trail. Turn left and follow the A.T. another 2 miles as it winds through the forest, gently climbing to the junction with the Mount Cammerer Trail. The spur trail continues to follow the ridge for another 0.7 miles to the summit. The trees thin out as you approach the summit before opening up onto a narrow rocky peak topped with the stone and wood Mount Cammerer Lookout.
Mount Cammerer and the Cammerer Lookout are named after Arno B. Cammerer, who was director of the National Park Service from 1933 to 1940 and played an important role in the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Built by hand from 1937 to 1939, the lookout was originally used by fire watchers to scan the forest for fires in the surrounding hills. Restored in 1980’s after becoming obsolete, the lookout now offers hikers the same 360 degree views of the park that the fire watchers had.
Distance: 11.0 miles round trip, out and back.
Difficulty: Moderate, with about 2,000 feet of total elevation gain.
Trailhead: Low Gap Trailhead at the Cosby Picnic Area. For hikers staying at Cosby Campground follow the trailhead located at the end of B Loop. Look for the wooden trail marker.
Route: From the hiker parking at Cosby, follow the Low Gap Trail about 2.8 miles as it climbs out of the valley to meet the Appalachian Trail. Turn left at the junction, following the white blazes of the A.T. 2.0 miles until you reach the junction with the Mt. Cammerer spur trail. After another 0.7 miles, you will reach the summit. Return by the same route.
Permits/Fees: None, if day hiking. Backcountry camping will require a permit. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has no entry fee.
Overnight Possible: Cosby Campground makes for an excellent base camp for those looking to explore this section of the Smokies. There are numerous opportunities for backpacking in the Smokies as well.
Best Time To Go: Spring and Fall. Spring weather can be unpredictable in the mountains, but the forest comes alive with wildflowers and budding trees. Visit in autumn to avoid the heat and crowds of summer and catch the fall foliage.
Where to Poop: There are flush toilets at the campground. On trail, practice Leave No Trace principles. Avoid doing you business at the summit, where the more fragile ecosystem and rocky ground will make proper methods impossible.