Indian Flats Falls Loop, Tremont Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Indian Flats Falls Loop - 14.05 miles
|Round-Trip Length:||14.05 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,944' - 1,944' (4,690' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,746' net elevation gain (+3,412' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Indian Flats Falls Loop - 14.05 Miles Round-Trip
The Tremont Trailhead is located 22.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This once heavily logged corridor on the Middle Prong of Little River is now a gateway to some of the Park's most remote backcountry trails, waterfalls and campsites.
The Middle Prong Trail, Lynn Camp Prong Trail, Miry Ridge Trail, and Panther Creek Trail form a lollipop loop through archetypal Northern Hardwood Forests and riparian corridors. Visitors will enjoy lengthy groomed sections and moderate grades ideal for backpacking and day hiking deep into the backcountry.
The following description begins on Middle Prong Trail and travels counter-clockwise on the loop:
The Middle Prong Trail rises gently on a wide, packed gravel path beside Lynn Camp Prong to Lynn Camp Prong Falls, which spill over a long, tilted rock slab (.35 miles : 2,070'). While the falls are set back and partially concealed, you'll have easy access to many smaller but equally scenic cascades leading to and past this point.
The trail continues up the broad south bank of Lynn Camp Prong in a mixed hardwood forest to the Panther Creek Trail split (2.25 miles : 2,678'), where you'll remain on the Middle Prong Trail to begin counter-clockwise travel on the loop. Note that you'll seamlessly branch off along Indian Flats Prong shortly beyond this split.
The trail moves steadily under a vine-draped canopy and columns of rhododendron to a wide bridge (3.5 miles : 2,973'); once over, it climbs away from the creek and winds into a thick forest. While water is no longer visible, Indian Flats Falls will be audible as you near the unmarked access split, located on a sharp, steep bend in the trail (3.75 miles : 3,096').
A clear path breaks off the main trail behind a large boulder and undulates ruggedly .05 miles to the highest of four individual falls that comprise Indian Flats Falls (3,065'), a highly compelling excursion if time permits.
The Middle Prong Trail steepens past the unmarked split for Indian Flats Falls to the Lynn Camp Prong - Greenbrier Ridge Trail split (4.0 miles : 3,218'). The Lynn Camp Prong Trail bends east, moderates, and wraps around several coves and ravines ideal for seeing wildlife.
It steepens considerably from 6.25 - 7.0 miles (3,835' - 4,215') on a colorful stretch lined by rhododendron, kinnikinnick, mosses, and ferns. This rapid elevation gain places you closer to the canopy with excellent perspective on the forest understory.
A steep push leads to the Miry Ridge Trail split (7.35 miles : 4,395'), which turns north up the south flank of Dripping Spring Mountain (4,801'). The forest thins considerably on a rolling climb up this high ridge to Backcountry Campsite #26 (7.8 miles : 4,522'). While the trail eschews the summit, intuitive off-trail navigation will lead you to it.
The forest breaks suddenly and crests in an open laurel slick (8.4 miles : 4,690'), an ecologically and topographically significant point. Here the trail enjoys a moment of direct sun before tilting downhill on a fast, winding descent to Jakes Gap and the Panther Creek Trail split (9.65 miles : 4,055').
The Panther Creek Trail - the steepest and most rugged section of this loop - moderates as you near the Lynn Camp Prong confluence. The forest is noticeably wetter, richer, and cluttered in this riparian corridor. The trail reaches a wide section of Panther Creek (11.8 miles : 2,681'), which must be crossed on either a makeshift log bridge or through the water itself.
The Panther Creek Trail joins the Middle Prong Trail just past the crossing to complete the loop. Retrace your steps on the Middle Prong Trail back to the Tremont Trailhead (14.05 miles : 1,944').
- N35 37.077 W83 40.187 — 0.0 miles : Tremont Trailhead
- N35 36.927 W83 39.910 — .35 miles : Lynn Camp Prong Falls
- N35 36.923 W83 39.375 — 1.0 miles : Steady travel on wide gravel road-trail
- N35 36.804 W83 38.836 — 1.5 miles : Frequent access to falls along the creek
- N35 36.491 W83 38.225 — 2.25 miles : Panther Creek Trail split - begin loop
- N35 35.901 W83 37.988 — 3.0 miles : Sharp bend in trail
- N35 35.679 W83 37.934 — 3.5 miles : Cross bridge and climb away from creek
- N35 35.608 W83 37.934 — 3.75 miles : Unmarked split to Indian Flats Falls
- N35 35.484 W83 37.899 — 4.0 miles : Lynn Camp Prong Trail split
- N35 35.741 W83 37.428 — 4.75 miles : Winding course around deep coves
- N35 35.872 W83 36.899 — 5.45 miles : Backcountry Campsite #28 - trail narrows
- N35 35.865 W83 36.173 — 6.25 miles : Grade steepens considerably
- N35 36.060 W83 35.517 — 7.0 miles : Steep push to Miry Ridge
- N35 36.198 W83 35.254 — 7.35 miles : Miry Ridge Trail split
- N35 36.555 W83 35.508 — 7.8 miles : Backcountry Campsite #26
- N35 36.589 W83 36.214 — 8.4 miles : Trail crests in laurel slick; begin descent
- N35 36.753 W83 36.654 — 9.2 miles : Fast, steep descent down Dripping Spring Mt
- N35 36.985 W83 36.518 — 9.65 miles : Jakes Gap - Panther Creek Trail split
- N35 36.881 W83 37.227 — 10.25 miles : Steepest and most rugged descent on loop
- N35 36.593 W83 37.806 — 11.0 miles : Grade moderates in wetter forest near creek
- N35 36.491 W83 38.225 — 11.8 miles : Middle Prong Trail split - complete loop
- N35 37.077 W83 40.187 — 14.05 miles : Tremont Trailhead
- Fishing is restricted along Lynn Camp Prong and on all tributaries upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong. See details below.
- Backcountry Campsites #28 and #26 are located on this loop as described above.
- Bear activity is common along these trails, especially in the fall. Backpackers should closely follow food storage protocols.
- Mild, groomed grades make this an excellent trail run to Indian Flats Falls, and up to Campsite #28.
- Despite long distances, moderate grades and good trail conditions make this loop achievable in a day for fit hikers.
- This loop is also accessible from the Elkmont Campground by the Jakes Creek Trail.
Camping and Backpacking Information
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Horses are permitted on the entirety of this loop.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Tremont Trailhead is located 22.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Tremont Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, travel 17.4 miles west on Little River Road to Tremont Road on the left (south). This turnoff is located just past the Highway 337-73 intersection. Drive 5.1 miles on Tremont Road to its terminus at the trailhead.
Note the last 3 miles are on a gravel road that is closed in winter. Call ahead for seasonal closures.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)