Charlies Bunion Trail: An In-Depth Hiking Guide

Looking for an incredible adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? You’ve found it! It’s time to lace up your hiking boots and prepare to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Charlies Bunion!

Follow along as we guide you through everything you need to know for an unforgettable hike to Charlies Bunion.

Embark on your journey through a lush, dense forest as you set out on the Charlies Bunion Trail. The grand finale is reaching the rocky outcropping of Charlies Bunion itself. Where sweeping 360-degree panoramic vistas will richly reward your efforts.

To the north, marvel at the 6,593-foot summit of Mount Le Conte, one of the tallest peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Let your eyes trace the steel-gray scar of Newfound Gap Road as it dramatically traverses the slopes below.

And take in views of the distant Oconaluftee River valley beyond. Eager to know some helpful insider tips to make your experience even more exciting? Without further ado, let’s hit the trail running, err hiking!

Charlies Bunion Trail History

Charlies Bunion was originally called Fodderstack when Horace Kephart first explored the remote region in the early 1900s. He teamed up with guide Charlie Connor, who was instrumental in establishing the national park.

On a hike to the cliffs, Connor remarked that the jagged rocks looked like a bunion on his feet, and the name stuck. An apt description for this rocky landmark located along the North Carolina – Tennessee border!

The View from Charlies Bunion Trail inside The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USACharlies Bunion Trailhead

The Charlies Bunion trail begins at the Newfound Gap parking lot, located 13 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Related Post: Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg Tennessee: 10 Can’t Miss Activities

Head eastbound on the Appalachian Trail from the parking area to reach this iconic Charlies Bunion hike. The trail immediately enters a tunnel of foliage, with the path criss-crossing over roots as it winds through the forested slopes.

Charlies Bunion Trail Length and Difficulty Level

The hike to Charlies Bunion is 8.1 miles roundtrip with over 1,600 feet of elevation gain. This makes it a difficult hike overall, but the panoramic rewards at the end make it all worthwhile. The strenuous climbing, high Charlies Bunion elevation, and rocky, uneven footing add to the challenge.

Pro Tip: You can start the hike from either Newfound Gap or the Clingmans Dome parking area. If you have two vehicles, park one at each trailhead for a one-way hike. Stopping at the Clingmans Dome observation tower adds just 0.5 miles roundtrip for even better views.

man and woman with walking hiking poles on trail overlooking mountains
Photo Credit: Viktorcvetkovic via Getty Images

Where to Go at Charlies Bunion Hiking Trail

The first two miles of the trail steadily climbs uphill, rewarding you with views of the Smokies. Around the 1.7-mile mark, don’t forget to pause and relish the awe-inspiring views of Mt. LeConte and Myrtle Point.

At 2.7 miles, the Boulevard Trail forks off to the left. To continue on your route, stay straight, and you’ll shortly pass the Sweat Heifer Creek trail junction.

After covering 2.7 miles from the trailhead, you’ll come across the Icewater Spring Shelter, and on your right, there’s a side trail leading to the spring. Take a moment to stop here and filter some invigoratingly cold spring water for a refreshing break.

You’ll encounter a signposted junction for the Charlie’s Bunion side trail on your left upon reaching the 3.8-mile mark. Follow this short side trail as it meanders across the open rocky outcrop, weaving through boulders and slabs.

And in just 0.1 miles, you’ll arrive at the cliff-edge overlook of Charlie’s Bunion, treating you to the breathtaking scenery.

Pro Tip: Parking at Newfound Gap is extremely limited. Arrive early, especially on summer weekends, to secure a parking spot. Overflow parking extends along both sides of Newfound Gap Road.

Best Time to Hike

You can hit the trail all year round, but the seasons have their own charms. Spring through fall is when the Smokies really shine. In summer, everything is lush, but you might have to share the beauty with larger crowds, sweltering heat, and humidity.

For those who prefer moderate temps and stunning vistas, late spring and early fall are the way to go. Even in winter, the road to these trailheads can be open if Mother Nature cooperates. Just remember, in the winter, you’ll need your cold-weather gear and some trusty traction devices for any icy surprises.

Pro Tip: Always be prepared with essential items like water, snacks, proper footwear, layers, and a map or compass, as cell service can be unreliable in the backcountry.

view of newfound gap from the appalachian trail smoky mountains
View from the Appalachian Trail

Gatlinburg Hotels

Planning a Smoky Mountain adventure but uncertain about where to stay in Gatlinburg? Navigating the range of choices can be overwhelming. Should you go for luxury or budget accommodations? What about location and necessary amenities?

It’s frustrating to deal with accommodation decisions on top of planning activities. After a long day exploring the national park or hiking Charlie’s Bunion. All you want is a comfortable and affordable place to relax – one that’s clean, quiet, and has helpful staff.

The good news is that finding the perfect Gatlinburg hotel doesn’t have to be a headache. Fortunately, Tripster already handled the heavy lifting. So you can discover great Gatlinburg Hotels that are perfect for unwinding after your adventures

Exterior ground view of the Glenstone Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAPlan the Best Gatlinburg Outdoor Adventure Today with Tripster

Charlie’s Bunion, a remarkable gem in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, offers hikers a chance to witness nature’s grandeur at its finest. With sweeping vistas, challenging terrain, and the thrill of exploration, this iconic landmark promises an unforgettable experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a novice adventurer, safety should always be a top priority. Stay on designated trails, be prepared for changing weather conditions, and admire animals from a safe distance.

By following these safety guidelines and other insider tips, you can ensure a more secure and enjoyable outdoor experience. So, lace up your boots, hit the trail, and embrace the beauty of Charlies Bunion.

It’s time to trek your way to a mountain of fun!

Tell Us, Are You Ready to Hike Charlies Bunion Trail?

What advice or tips would you add to our guide? Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Archie Villaflores

Over the years, he has won numerous national contests for news and editorial writing, but he has recently discovered that his true passion...

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