Great Smoky Mountains National Park | BIG CREEK REGION


BIG CREEK REGION

Big Creek is located on the northeastern side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park between Cataloochee and Cosby. This is an out-of-the-way region of the park, and those wanting to experience the Smokies without the crowds will find much to enjoy here.

The road from Cosby to Big Creek turns to dirt a mile or so from the turnoff to the Big Creek camping and picnicking area. The paved portion of the road is Highway 32. Once it turns to dirt, the name changes to Route 284 / 1397 / Mt. Sterling Road. The road twists and turns like a broken snake, making it is nearly impossible to go more than 20 miles per hour. The distance between Cosby and Big Creek is 12 miles, and from Big Creek to Cataloochee, 16 miles. The road remains dirt all the way to Cataloochee.

The turnoff from Mt. Sterling Road to the Big Creek area is called Big Creek Entrance Road. This is an extremely rough dirt road with potholes so big that if you hit one your radio will skip. If you have ever seen the movie Escape From New York, driving down Big Creek Entrance Road is like driving over the bridge filled with land mines, as you are constantly swerving left and right to avoid them. However, other than a low-rider, any vehicle can make it—no 4-wheel drive required. If you have a really nice car, I don’t suggest visiting the Big Creek Region.


CAMPGROUNDS

Big Creek Campground
With only 12 tent sites, this is the smallest campground in the park. No RVs are allowed. The campground is usually open from early April through the end of October. Reservations are required.

Big Creek Group Campsite
There is one group campsite at Big Creek that can hold up to 25 people. Tents only. Reservations are required.

Big Creek Horse Campground
For those with horses, there is a five-site horse campground available. The campground can accommodate tents and RVs and horse trailers up to 35 feet long. Reservations are required.


HIKING TRAILS

There are dozens of hiking trails in the Big Creek Region and over 800 miles of trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is not possible for me to hike all of them, but I did hike a few in each region. At Big Creek, the shortest loop hike that can be conjured out of the trails is 15 miles long, which is too long for most people. Thus, the best bet is to hike out-and-back on a short section of a trail that leads to an interesting feature or scenic view. I chose a 4-mile round trip hike to Mouse Creek Falls on the Big Creek Trail.

Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls
4.2-mile, round-trip hike to Mouse Creek Falls. One of the easiest hikes to a waterfall in the park.


PICNIC AREAS

Big Creek Picnic Area
Small 12-table picnicking spot at the Big Creek Campground complex. Open from early April through the end of October, the same schedule as the campground. Tables and grills only, no pavilion, all taken on a first come, first served basis.

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Last updated on January 1, 2021
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