Just five hours away from Clarksville is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in this park, straddling between Tennessee and North Carolina is a popular day hike nicknamed after its famous craggy rock overlook; Charlies Bunion.
Off of the prominent Appalachian trail is the trailhead to Charlies Bunion that is located at Newfound Gap Road in the Newfound Gap Road parking lot. The trailhead is to the left of the overlook near the restrooms. Over fall break, this lot was packed with cars and groups of people, from families of four, to the experienced fully packed backpacker.
Being an intermediate hiker, this moderate to strenuous rated hike was just that. Carrying only a backpack with water and some snacks inside, the next two hours were to be light travel.
Beginning the hike you immediately hit the steady incline up the mountain, which continues for the first two miles. At around three miles, the trail forks off to where travelers can continue to Charlies or up towards Mt. Leconte. At roughly four miles from the Newfound Gap parking lot, a short trail will lead you to your destination that surprisingly includes a lot of downhill time. However, you know what that means; your tired legs and body will have to carry you back up on the returning journey.
Charlies Bunion not only offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains but a feeling of accomplishment upon arrival. It’s like entering an open gate where suddenly you are out of the trees and woods and hanging off the tip of a mountain, literally. The families of four are long gone and probably back at the parking lot overlook and it’s just you and a few other go-getters that are there to share the moment.
Spending about an hour at the top refueling, taking pictures and reveling in the views the whole hike up is around three hours. Hiking back down does include the occasional up hill stretch but once pass that, it takes about 1.5 hours total. One could hike up and down in a matter of four hours, give or take.
To experience something as beautiful as the views from this famous bunion even on a cloudy day, one must go for themselves. The feeling of the fresh mountain air, and cold wind is something you can barely begin to describe. Besides, the best views are always after the hardest climbs.