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5 Adventurous Hidden Gems in the Great Smoky Mountains

Discovering these hidden gems in the Great Smoky Mountains will be an adventure! Are you tired of the seeing and doing the same thing for every trip to the Smokies. Well, these hidden gems in the Great Smoky Mountains are worth the search. At Foxfire Mountain, we believe that a real adventure should take you off the beaten path.

It makes it that much more satisfying when you discover something truly remarkable. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five of the most interesting secret spots in the Great Smoky Mountains. All of the items except one on this list require some hiking to find. But trust us, they’re worth the effort.

1. Rainbow Falls Cave via Schoolhouse Gap Trail

The first item on this list is probably the most difficult to find. Rainbow Falls Cave is a little-known cave in the wilderness of the Smokies that has a waterfall falling into it. The only way to reach the cave is to go off official trails on a footpath to an area that used to serve as homesteads for the former residents of the National Park.

To reach Rainbow Falls Cave, you have to follow Schoolhouse Gap Trail for about 1 mile before branching off-trail into the Whiteoak Sinks area.

Back in the days before the National Park, Whiteoak Sinks was host to subsistence homesteads. You’ll see lots of evidence of this history as you explore the area. Now, we have to stress that you do have to go off of official trails to get to Rainbow Falls Caves, so this is not a secret spot for beginners.

Whenever you go off-trail, make sure to know where you’re going, bring a map, leave markers, and bring a compass! If you do take on this adventure, be sure to check out this map from Wildlife South. The map shows you the locations of the cave from our list, as well as several other landmarks to check out.

The video we’ve embedded below is one of the best resources out there to discover the cave. Follow the video’s instructions, and you’ll discover Rainbow Falls Cave in no time!


2. The Troll Bridge at Elkmont

Back in the days before the National Park, but after the days of logging, the Elkmont area was a resort to the wealthy of Knoxville. Patrons would flee the cities on the weekend to mountain retreats and mansions where they would attend social functions, hunt, and have fun.

After the park came along, the resort eventually had to abaondon its holdings, leaving a ghost town in its wake. In the past, the Little River Trail was home to dozens of abaonded vacation homes dotting the forest along the trial. After the clean up project the Park completed this year, several of the structures have been torn down. But, the park restored 19 sturctures to be left as momuments of years past.

One of the features that stood the purge was the enchanting Troll Bridge. The bridge spans a small creek a little off-trail. The idealic setting is perfect for photos, and gives a very whimsical feel. Probably a good place to spot some Wyiles!

To reach the Troll Bridge, take one of the many estabished side trails to the right about 100 feet into the Little River Trail. Follow the side trail through the forest, and it will eventually bring you to the bridge. To make sure you stay on the right path, just follow parallel to the beautiful stone walls.

the troll bridge at elkmont is an awesome hidden gem in the smokies

The Troll Bridge on the Little River Trail can be found by venturing to the right off-trail about 100 ft. past the trailhead at Elkmont Campground.


3. The Harrisburg Covered Bridge

The Harrisburg Covered Bridge is one of those hidden gems that is right under your nose. Many folks that have been coming to Sevierville their entire lives have never heard of the bridge. It’s only recently, with the advent of blogs and review sites, that the bridge has gained more notoriety.

The bridge is a historical landmark and popular photo spot. It earned a spot as one of the top things to do in Sevierville, according to TripAdvisor, along with America’s Longest Swinging Bridge at Foxfire. It’s one of only four covered bridges in the entire state of Tennessee, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Built in late 1875, the bridge was renovated in the 1980s and early 2000s. It is 83 feet long and 14 feet wide on the outside. And, it has nearly 11.5 feet of clearance inside. Look for the little pull-off beside the bridge to park and take photos.

You can find the bridge about 15 minutes from downtown Sevierville. Grab directions to the bridge via Google Maps here.

the Harrisburg Covered Bridge is an interesting hidden gem in the smoky mountains

The Harrisburg Covered Bridge is the oldest covered bridge in Tennessee.


4. Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower

The Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower is something every Smoky Mountain hiking lover should have on his or her bucket list. Nestled at a breathtaking height of 4,928 ft., the fire tower offers panoramic views of the Smokies. Conquering this secret spot in the Smoky Mountains won’t be easy, though. The shortest trek from trailhead to fire tower is an 11.1 mile round-trip!

To get to the tower, start out at Cosby Campground via the trailhead for the Low Gap Trail. You’ll climb up some switch-backs until you come to the intersection of the Mt. Cammerer Trail. Take a right.

Continue on Mt. Cammerer Trail for about 3 miles to the junction with the Appalachian Trail. Take a left here. Once you’re on the Appalachian Trail, the elevation will level off, making for a much-needed break in the hike.

At about 5 miles into your hike, you’ll reach the trail leading up to the fire tower. The climb to the tower is a total of 0.6 miles and is very steep. But, when you reach the top, you’ve made it to your destination.

The Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower’s design is pretty unique. It has just a few steps leading up to a wide veranda where you can take in the panoramic views.

Photo by Michael Hicks. “Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower.” 10/22/2011. Shared from Flickr: <https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikerhicks/6279091440>


5. The Historic Sweden Furnace Iron Mine at Foxfire Mountain

There is a long history of mining and loggin here in the Smokies. From logging to mining, pioneers of the area used the natural resources to make their mark in the emerging country. A piece of that history is actually found at Foxfire Mountain, albeit hidden by an awesome waterfall.

The historic Sweden Furnace Iron Mine was originally an operational mine back in the late 1800’s. It was opened after the Civil War and continued operation until the early 1990’s. During its heyday, the mine was used on a daily basis. Today, the mine has been left in its original state for visitors of Foxfire to check out.

To find the old iron mine, Foxfire visitors can hike the River Walk Trail to Lost Mine Falls. From there, you can follow the trail up and behind the waterfall to find the mine! Folks on the Bear Crawler Tour also check out the mine as one of the stops on the adventure.

Visitors will be able to see inside the mine, and step into the mouth of the entrance. Although we don’t allow folks to venture into the mine itself, it is an awesome chance to see an old mine as it was in the 1800s.

Foxfire Mountain is home to a hidden gem in the smokies

The entrance to the lost mine at Foxfire is behind Lost Mine Falls.

There you have it, 5 hidden gems in the Great Smoky Mountains for your family to explore the next time you visit!

Be sure to bookmark our blog for more updates about adventures in the Smokies. And, if you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on all our social media accounts for deals, updates, and behind-the-scenes looks at Foxfire Mountain!