Rich Mountain loop trail
(8.5 miles, 1736 elevation gain)
As this was our first time on this trail we weren't sure what to expect.The first two miles are uphill (if you start on the Crooked Arm Ridge trail) and it is very slow and steady climbing (we saw a bear cub! - but not its mom, so we moved quickly out of the area). I'm not going to lie - Ellison and I were not initially thrilled with this as we huffed and puffed our way up. But, by our logic, this allows you to end downhill with the John Oliver cabin, as well as pretty much guarantee that you'll have the trail to yourself since this is technically going 'backward'. If you're anything like Ellison or myself (and, of course, we suspect you are) it is better to get the hard part out of the way first when you have more energy and enthusiasm. This means you'll end on a high note and everyone will have forgotten the incessant complaining that occured five miles earlier.
This is a rather woody hike (as are most in the Smoky Mountains), and because of this it seems like it's one best taken in the winter when the trees are bare in order to maximize the views. As you walk along the ridgeline, the overlook opens up and you can see Townsend on your right and Cades Cove on your left. The view goes on for miles if the weather is clear. We were lucky and the skies were cloudless for the majority of our hike, though the fog was dense by late afternoon.
Have you hiked Cades Cove? Do you have any recommendations? Ellison and I would love your advice as we make a list of trails we want to check out on our next trip.