Great Smoky Mountains National Park | NOAH “BUD” OGLE PLACE NATURE TRAIL

Start of the Noah "Bud" Ogle Place Nature Trail

Start of the Noah “Bud” Ogle Place Nature Trail


See the Gatlinburg Region web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 1 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy cardiovascular-wise, but technically difficult due to large rocks, roots, and stream crossings.
Time: 1 hour, including time to see the buildings

Don’t let the moniker “Nature Trail” fool you, because this is not a nature trail, but a history trail. A one-mile loop leads through the homestead of Noah Ogle where you will find his original cabin, barn, and grist mill. While the trail is flat and easy cardiovascular-wise, it is strewn with rocks of all sizes—even boulders—so every step must be calculated to avoid twisting an ankle. There is one point where a sign has to point you through a boulder field because there is no longer a discernible trail. Of course this is on the extreme end of the scale, but rocks are a concern for most of the hike. In the few cases where they thin out, they are replaced by roots that are just as eager to trip you up. Once you walk around the property you will understand the hardships involved with not only trying to build on such rocky terrain, but also staying alive while trying to farm the area.

Typical terrain of the trail

Typical terrain of the trail

One of the rougher sections of the Ogle Place Nature Trail

One of the rougher sections of the Ogle Place Nature Trail

The Ogle Homestead is reached via Cherokee Orchard Road, which begins in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Most people who are traveling down this road are on their way to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a scenic drive that begins at the end of Cherokee Orchard Road. The Olge Homestead has its own parking area and certainly should not be missed if you are already heading this way. Trail guides are available in a kiosk for a small donation. It is well worth the investment, otherwise you are just walking around without a clue as to what you are looking at. The trail is set up to be hiked in a counterclockwise direction so you come to the points of interest in the order listed in the brochure. Thus, stay to the right when you come to the first fork in the trail, which is the start of the loop.

The Ogles were one of the first families to settle the Gatlinburg area, which was originally called White Oak Flats. Noah is a descendant of the original settlers, and he farmed these 400 acres starting in 1879. The first structure you come to is his cabin. It is open to the public, though there are no furnishings inside. The cabin started out at half this size, but as more and more kids were added to the family, Ogle made renovations to double its size. You can see the division by looking at the two different levels of the roof.

Ogle cabin

Ogle cabin

Inside the Ogle Cabin

Inside the Ogle Cabin

The next stop is about ten minutes farther down the trail: a small “tub” style grist mill. Along the way you will see stone walls that were built to keep cows and pigs in a field and to mark off property boundaries.

Stone walls along the trail

Stone walls along the trail

The grist mill is the most interesting building on the homestead. Amazingly, the original wooden flume that carried water from the creek to the mill is still intact. Many of the buildings were constructed with Chestnut wood, a rot-resistant tree that once dominated the area until the Chestnut blight killed most of them in the late 1930s. I’m no wood expert, and I have no idea what the flume or buildings were made of here, but my guess would be Chestnut.

Grist Mill

Grist Mill

Original flume that carried water to the mill

Original flume that carried water to the mill

The way a mill works is that water must travel forcefully enough to spin a waterwheel which then turns a shaft connected to grinding stones. Grain slips between the two stones and is crushed as the top stone spins and grinds the grain into the bottom, stationary stone. A waterwheel can be spun by placing it directly in a fast moving river, but what if the river near the mill doesn’t flow very fast? Or if the mill couldn’t be built right on the river due to regular flooding? The solution is to build a flume to carry the water from the source to the mill. But remember, the water must somehow gather enough speed before hitting the waterwheel. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, one of which is to construct the mill so that the wheel is lower than the flume. At the end of the flume ride the water either free falls onto the wheel like a waterfall or takes a steep nosedive along a sloped section of the flume before hitting the wheel, which is the case with the Ogle mill. You can see the final, sloped section of the flume in the photo below.

Sloping section of the flume pours water onto the wheel housed in the lower section of the mill

Sloping section of the flume pours water onto the wheel housed in the lower section of the mill

As you continue on the rocky trail, including the above mentioned “so rocky you can’t find the trail section,” you will come to the last stop, the barn. Like the cabin, visitors can wander around inside, though there is not much to see. The style of the barn is known as a “drive in” because you could drive your wagons through the opening in the middle and park them out of the rain.

Ogle Barn

Ogle Barn

Interior of the Ogle Barn

Interior of the Ogle Barn

Round trip around the Ogle Homestead is right at one mile, and it takes about an hour for the hike and a visit to the three buildings. For those planning to drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, the start is just a little farther down the road.

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on March 16, 2020
Share this article