If there’s one thing that visitors to this area understand, it’s that the hiking trails are popular no matter what time of the year. Even those that seem the most challenging in terms of elevation gain and distance, like Mt. Cammerer or Alum Cave, have their fair share of hikers.
But on the Maddron Bald Trail near the Cosby entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you likely won’t have that issue. The reason is access. Cosby is a half hour drive from the main Tennessee entrance in Gatlinburg and doesn’t attract the crowds that tend to gather there. Another bonus for our guests here at Christopher Place: it’s a 30-minute drive from the property, so it may be one of the first trails you might considering venturing forth on during your stay.
A highlight of Maddron Bald is Albright Grove, the home of the oldest cove hardwood forest in the park. Lumbering and episodes of blight nearly decimated the abundant groves here, but thanks to the protection of the National Park, this area remains. You’ll find mostly tulip poplars and hemlock, as well as birch, beech, maple and buckeye trees.
The trail is 7.0-miles round trip, which will bring you to Albright Grove. Plan to start your hike early to arrive here with plenty of daylight left. It will take you anywhere from four to six hours to complete.
How to get there
From Newport, head south on US 321 for roughly 17 miles. Turn left onto Baxter Road, and look for a trailhead sign for Maddron Bald. Turn right to the beginning.
A little history about the trail: its namesake is Lawson Maddron, a minister who resided in the area in the late 1800’s. As a way to provide sorely needed jobs during the Great Depression, workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps it in early 1930s. Albright Grove is named after Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service at the time the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was first conceived.
From the trail-head to the Baxter Cabin
For the first 2.3 miles of Maddron Bald, you’ll hike on a wide gravel road that’s free of motor traffic. The terrain gradually ascends to a total gain of 1,974 feet.
After 0.7 mile from the trailhead, you’ll come to the Baxter Cabin, a wedding present given to the son of Willis Baxter and constructed from one single chestnut tree. This refurbished structure will give you an idea of how settlers lived in this area of the Smoky Mountains.
From Baxter Cabin to Albright Grove
A half-mile further, you’ll come to an intersection where Gabes Mountain Trail and the Old Settlers Trail meet with Maddron Bald. Keep going south, as the trail ascends above Indian Camp Creek. You’ll also encounter the Maddron family cemetery nearby. The trail turns to dirt and narrows in another mile, taking you into the forest.
When you cross the creek at 2.7 miles, you’ll climb toward the Albright Grove Loop Trail junction. Take a right here, and proceed onto the loop, which is roughly three-quarters of a mile and circles back to Maddron Bald.
The trail will ascend for another 0.3 mile before heading back down. Right before this point, you may want to view the tallest tree in the grove, a 135-foot and 25 foot around poplar. Retrace your steps back to the trail head.
Next month, we’ll feature another fantastic trail that you can explore on a getaway to eastern Tennessee while you stay at Christopher Place, your Smoky Mountains bed and breakfast inn. Get in touch with us today, and reserve your place here.