Hiking Twenty Mile Loop Trail Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking Twenty Mile Loop Trail: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Olivia Williams

Did you know that 13.3 million people visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2023? While millions of people visit the park each year, a majority of them never get within a couple of hundred feet of their cars.

One of the best ways to experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is to get off the beaten path and take a hike!

The serenity of the trail allows for a deep connection with the surroundings, creating a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you are looking for a hiking trail in the park that is quiet, peaceful, and avoids massive crowds, you should consider hiking the twenty-mile loop trail in North Carolina.

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The twenty-mile loop trail is a beautiful trail that features a cascading river, several small waterfalls, and stream crossings. This trail connects to several other trails in the national park, so it is perfect for starting a backpacking trip.

“Twenty-mile Loop Trail is a great trail for someone who wants to go on a long hike but doesn’t want too much elevation change.”

Do you want to learn more about hiking the twenty-mile loop trail? If so, keep reading to learn what to expect.

Editor’s note: We ensure the accuracy of our guides through thorough fact-checking. The information in this guide reflects the most current details available as of Feb 2024.

Twenty Mile Loop Trail: Hike Overview

Starting Point: Twenty Mile Ranger Station
Stopping Point: Twenty Mile Ranger Station
Miles:
7.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Elevation Gain: 1,204 feet (1,318 minimum, 2,522 maximum)

Map Of Twenty Mile Loop Trail

Hiking Twenty Mile Loop Trail Map | To & From Twenty Mile Ranger Station

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Twenty Mile Loop Trail: Hike Summary

Getting to the Trail

NC HWY 28 – sign to the Great Smoky Mountains Park Entrance- Twenty Mile Ranger Station

Before heading out on your hike, be sure to pack the right day hike essentials. You will need a reusable water bottle, water filter, snacks, lunch, your camera, a small first aid kit, and a backpack. It also never hurts to carry an emergency shelter.

To get to the twenty-mile trail, start by driving on NC HWY 28. You will see a large sign to the Great Smoky Mountains Park Entrance- Twenty Mile Ranger Station.

Turn on the dirt road and drive until you reach the small parking lot. The dirt road is bumpy, so make sure you drive slowly to avoid damaging your vehicle. If the parking lot is full, you can park anywhere on the side of the road.

Twenty Mile Trail

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Once you park your car, you can get out and start walking up the trail. You will walk approximately 0.5 miles until you come to your first intersection.

If you stick to the right, you will stay on the twenty-mile trail. If you head to the left, you will be on the Wolf Ridge trail. The twenty-mile loop trail connects the two trails so that you can go either way. As reported, when many travelers hike this trail, they head to the right on the twenty-mile trail.

Twenty Mile Loop Trail

Once you hike about 3.1 miles (2.6 miles from the twenty-mile/Wolf Ridge intersection), you will come to another intersection.

Staying to the right will keep you on the twenty-mile trail, going straight will take you on the long hungry ridge trail, and going to the left will take you on the twenty-mile loop trail.

Go to the left to get on the twenty-mile loop trail. If you packed your lunch, this intersection is a great place to eat it because there is a bench.

Wolf Ridge Trail

After getting on the twenty-mile loop trail, you will hike around 2.9 miles to reach the Wolf Ridge Trail. This trail crosses over multiple streams and is a beautiful part of the hike.

This trail is great for taking pictures, enjoying a snack, or admiring plants. The World Ridge Trail section is 1.1 miles long, so you should be at mile 7.1 when you reach the first intersection again.

Once you get back to the intersection, head back towards the twenty-mile ranger station. This will take you back to your car!

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Alternate Routes

When you are hiking on the twenty-mile loop trail, you will notice that it connects to several other trails in the national park.

You can use this route to get on the Appalachian Trail, Gregory Bald Trail, or hike to Shuckstack Fire Tower. All the trails in the national park connect, so you could even hike to Clingman’s Dome or Deep Creek if you want.

Before planning any overnight backpacking trips in the national park, be sure to check out this Great Smoky Mountains Map. You also will need to register your hike with the park service.

Are You Ready to Hike Twenty Mile Loop Trail?

While it’s possible to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by car, the best way to do it is to take a hike. There are hundreds of amazing trails in the national park, so be sure to check out several during your visit.

The twenty-mile loop trail is perfect for anyone who wants to experience the park off the beaten path, take a peaceful hike, or go on a backpacking trip.

So, lace up your hiking boots, embrace the call of the wilderness, and immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of this extraordinary trail. The Twenty Mile Loop is not just a hike; it’s an exploration of the soul in one of the most captivating landscapes nature has to offer.

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