Appalachian Trail

Mt Cammerer

Hike to stunning summit views and the iconic, historic fire lookout tower on the summit of Mt Cammerer, following the Chestnut Branch and Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

trail info

12 miles
(round trip)
more
difficult
No dogs
allowed

LOCATION:Great Smoky Mountains National Park (maps & directions)

GEAR: The North Face Pack, our hiking gear list and Nikon D810 Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and our favorite outdoor apparel

OFFICIAL MAP: Trails Illustrated Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map

Scaling to just under 5,000 feet, Mt Cammerer is one of the more iconic summits on the Appalachian Trail’s meandering journey through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike to the summit is a moderately difficult one, following the Chestnut Branch Trail and the AT on a 3200-foot climb through scenic forest. Spanning over twelve miles, round trip, this adventure makes for a lengthy day hike or a fantastic overnight backpacking journey.

Hike to outstanding views from the Mt Cammerer summit fire tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A historic, western-style fire lookout tower crowns the Mt Cammerer summit, offering outstanding 360-degree views of the surrounding Smokies and the nearby town of Gatlinburg. It’s a fantastic hike in every season, but exceptionally beautiful in the summertime when the trail’s abundant rhododendron explode into bloom, and in autumn when fall’s colorful beauty paints the rolling peaks of the Smoky Mountains.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to 360-degree views from Mt Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mt Cammerer: the hike

The adventure begins at the Cosby Creek Campground entrance via the Low Gap access on the northern flank of the Smokies (view maps and driving directions). The trailhead is located just past the intersection of Mount Sterling Road with Waterville Road: the turn-off for the trailhead is across from the ranger station on the right. From the Chestnut Ridge Trailhead parking area, at 1,658 feet, the hike follows the gravel road for approximately 100 meters and turns right, through horse gates, and begins following the Chestnut Branch. Welcome to the first pitch of incline and the general trend of the hike’s journey to the Cammerer summit.

Hike through a lush forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, following the Chestnut Ridge Trail to the Appalachian Trail

The trail’s single track beautifully winds its way up along Chestnut Branch. A plethora of moss-covered granite and schist careen water down toward Big Creek and the Pigeon River to the north. This section of the trail offers a mixed-bag of steep ascent and mellow traverse up to its convergence with the Appalachian Trail at 2.25 miles. The hike ascends just under 1,200 feet in this distance, which accounts for a little over a third of its total elevation gain to the summit. Upon reaching the AT, a two-way sign indicates the Cammerer summit spur trail lies to the south, and the hike turns left to follow the AT southbound.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to Mount Cammerer, catching stunning panoramic Smoky Mountain views from the mountain's summit

The Appalachian Trail winds its way through several tunnels of rhododendron, checkered by mountain views to the East through the thinning tree line. Stairs are bountiful here, leading to the first summit views of the mountain around 4.3 miles, as the trail winds westward below the summit. Though the summit appears near, the distance can be deceiving: a grand ascent is ahead, just under two miles to the summit and tower. Groves of mountain maple, American beech, and basswood begin to give way to spruce-fir. Several springs on the trail’s right offer the opportunity for water prior to summit (please remember to purify backcountry water with a filter like the Sawyer Mini).

The trail begins a precipitous path with a stone wall dominating the trail’s left side, with vertical rock faces to the right. The hike departs the AT at 5.4 miles, making a sharp turn northbound to the summit and following the summit spur trail.

Hike to a historic fire lookout tower on Mt Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Six-tenths of a mile of rock-laden, mucky single track trail makes a direct path to the Mt Cammerer summit and historic fire lookout tower. 360-degree panoramic views extend to the Pigeon River Valley to the northeast and Gatlinburg to the west. Mid-week hikes in the off-season usually score some solitude on the summit, but high-traffic hiking season can lead to crowded conditions at this iconic fire tower. (If you’re overnighting on the mountain in peak season or on the weekend, be prepared for a potential short traverse back to the AT for tent-able flat ground.)

Our favorite hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: hike to Mt Cammerer on the Appalachian Trail

Departing the summit, the return hike retraces its outbound steps to the trailhead. It’s a hiker’s delight, descending gradually to the AT, and then making a right turn on the Chestnut Branch Trail at 9.75 miles. The hike reaches the trailhead at 12 miles, completing the adventure.

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Mount Cammerer Map, Directions & Details

Mount Cammerer Map
Mount Cammerer Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free.

GPS Coordinates

35.759850, -83.105600     //     N35 45.591 W83 06.336

Elevation Profile

Mount Cammerer via Chestnut Branch and Appalachian Trail Elevation Profile
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
Nicholas Walsh is a adventure photojournalist from the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The son of avid outdoorsman father and a mother with a passion for education, he sought to wander his home from an early age. With passions for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, surfing, and whitewater paddling developing before his seventh birthday, it became clear that both a personal and professional life spent outdoors and abroad would be in his future.

Nick is a freelance photojournalist, based in Atlanta, Georgia with professional affiliations to several media and photographic production firms. Follow him on Instagram: @_shootnick_
 
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