TO THE TRAILHEAD: This hike is located just off of Little River Road in the Elkmont section of the Smoky Mountains. From Sugarlands Visitor Center, take Little River Road 5 miles to a left turn towards Elkmont Campground (20.1 miles from Cades Cove). Take this road until just before the campground where you will see a left turn. Turn here and follow the road to the hiker parking lot for the Little River Trail trailhead.
FEATURES: Husky Branch Falls, old homesites, wildflowers in Spring/Summer, lots of bugs (summer), and serenity once you get on Cucumber Gap
THE HIKE: This is one of several great loop hikes in the Smokies. This 5.5 mile roundtrip moderate hike will give you plenty to see without making you too tired to do anything else with the rest of your day. With all loop hikes, you can go either direction (left or right) that you wish to. I prefer to go left and start on the Little River Trail, so that is what our trail description will follow.
As you begin the hike, you will see many old vacation homes and cabins in various states of disarray from crumbling to falling down. These homes belonged primarily to wealthy people in Knoxville before being taken over by the park service. They might be an interesting stroll down memory lane, but do not go in any of them. They are certainly not safe, and there are signs everywhere telling you to stay out.
The hike itself in this section is easy. It follows an old, wide, gravel road that gently slopes for the next 2.2 miles as you will have rushing water beside you on your journey. It makes for an enjoyable start to a hike and an easy place to slow down and take it all in. At the 2.2 mile mark, you will reach the waterfall for this hike, Huskey Branch Falls. This 20 foot waterfall is not in any way a large or impressive feature, but it is a great place to relax, take a break, and dip your feet in the pool during a warm day. One disclaimer about this section of the hike is that mosquitos, gnats, and all other types of no-see-ums are everywhere during Spring and Summer. Consider wearing a hat and sunglasses to help keep them off of you or go during winter and early Spring to avoid them all together. However, if you go during these periods you will miss a ton of wildflowers that dot the trail.
After you have had enough of the falls, you will continue on trail for .3 mile to a trail junction with Cucumber Gap Trail. Take a right at this trail. Once you do, the trail becomes dirt (and a lot of roots) and steadily begins to incline. This section of trail is what earns the moderate rating. Also, this section of trail is often deserted. All the people you saw in the first 2.5 miles seem to vanish as most will return to their cars at this point. This section of trail does not have any unique and amazing features like waterfalls, overlooks, structures, etc., but it does offer peace and serenity and the occasional wildlife spotting.
Once you reach the next trail junction at 4.8 miles with Jakes Creek, you will again be on gravel when you take a right onto that trail. It is only .3 mile to get to the trailhead. When you arrive, you will see many, many old summer homes here. Simply walk down the road past the homes for .4 mile to return to your car.