The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is the longest continual footpath in the world, crossing ridge tops of the Appalachian Mountain range through 14 states. The AT began as a grand vision in 1921 and became America’s first national scenic trail in 1968. The AT is marked for travel in both directions with white blazes on trees, posts and rocks.
In 2009, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy named Unicoi County a Gateway Community to the Appalachian Trail. Unicoi County is just the fourth community to ever receive this special designation. Over 50 of the most scenic miles along the trail are located in Unicoi County. There are six trailheads that offer parking for your next hike on the famous Appalachian Trail.
AT Chestoa Trailhead:
From southern Erwin, go south on Temple Hill Rd for .3 mile past the Holiday Inn Express and turn left on River Rd. The AT crosses the Nolichucky River over the bridge at the first stop sign. Hiking south towards Spivey Gap is about 11 miles of climbing trail featuring beautiful views overlooking the Nolichucky River.
AT Devil’s Fork Trailhead:
From the I-26 Temple Hill Exit, go south on Old Asheville Highway. Turn right onto TN-352 (Devil’s Fork Rd) and the parking area is on the left at the TN/NC state line.
AT Indian Grave Gap Trailhead:
This trailhead and parking area is located on TN-395 (Rock Creek Rd) on the TN side of the TN/NC state line. Hiking south toward Chestoa is about 8 miles that starts out high in the mountains and ends near Erwin at the Nolichucky River.
AT Iron Mountain Gap Trailhead:
The northernmost AT trailhead is located on TN-107 at the TN/NC state line. Hiking south towards Indian Grave Gap is 11 miles of high mountain trail over 3,500 feet elevation featuring Beauty Spot, a bald mountaintop with nearly 360 degree views.
AT Sams Gap Trailhead:
This trailhead parking area is located south of Flag Pond on the Old Asheville Hwy just across the TN/NC state line. The AT intersects the Old Asheville Hwy at Sam’s Gap where the road goes under I-26. Hiking south towards Devil’s Fork is about 8 miles of mountain trail over 3,000′ elevations.
AT Spivey Gap Trailhead:
This trailhead parking area is on US19W in NC, within a couple miles of the TN/NC state line. From TN, drive .3 mile past the Spivey Gap Recreation Area sign to the pullout on the right. Hiking south towards Sams Gap is about 13.5 miles of trail that includes high rock overlooks and the 5,516-foot high Big Bald Mountain.