Great Smoky Mountain National Park is America’s most visited national park. With 150 official trails, this national park is a hiker’s paradise. While Kephart Prong Trail may not be the park’s most popular trail, it is a lovely place to explore and experience a bit of park history.
Access to Kephart Prong Trail is located on Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441), 7 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
The trailhead is easy to miss among the dense vegetation of spring or summer. The parking area is not much more than a pull-off.
This out and back trail is approximately 2 miles each way.
Kephart Prong Trail ends at the Kephart Prong Shelter. Here hikers can connect to other trails for longer hikes.
The trail begins at a bridge crossing the Oconaluftee River. The path parallels the river for about a quarter of a mile before veering north along Kephart Prong.
Keep an eye out for the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The CCC built roads, trails, shelters (including the one on this trail), and other facilities in the park in the 1930s.
Kephart Prong Trail traverses 4 log bridges taking hikers back and forth across the water. These bridges offer great views and make this trail extra fun.
The log bridges are stable and wide enough to make the crossing reasonably easy.
There is a gradual elevation gain on the trail, so the National Park Service has rated this trail as moderate.
If you don’t have enough time to go all the way to the shelter, you could turn around at the 3rd footbridge and still have a great experience.
Kephart Prong Trail Tip
Don’t rush this hike! There are many treasures to discover. Watch for salamanders by the river, and keep your eyes peeled for the mysterious (to me) blue wood. (If you know what this is, please share!)
Kephart Prong Trail is a fabulous place to experience the Great Smoky Mountains. This trail offers hikers of all skill levels the opportunity to savor a peaceful creekside stroll.