Tellico District Trails
BOB'S BALD August 2015, Oct 2011, Oct 2010, Oct 2008 Tazz Reid
The dog days of summer are upon us. Sweat, flies and misery are all a part of the ride these days, but there is a way to beat the heat and a way for you and your equine friend to enjoy a day in the mountains. In 2015, Mt. Leconte set a record high temperature for June 15th. It was 72 degrees! Yep, that is not a typo. Heading for the high altitude is the way to escape the heat. Just a few air miles south of the Smoky Mountains is Bob’s Bald, with an altitude of 1 mile high.
From Tellico Plains, head up the Cherohala Skyway to the North Carolina State line. Turn left into the Unicoi Crest scenic overlook, and reverse direction back toward Tellico Plains. One half mile back toward Tellico Plains is a wide grassy area and a locked gate. You may park in the grassy spot, but do not block the gate. If you are uncomfortable parking here, you can also park at Unicoi Crest Overook, but I would recommend walking your mount the half mile up to the trailhead, due to the fact you may encounter motorcycles traveling at high rates of speed on the Skyway.
This is the southern trailhead of Fodderstack Horse Trail. Ride around the gate and travel two miles to Cold Springs Gap. This is where the Citico Wilderness begins, and two hiking-only trails depart from the horse trail. Immediately to your right is an old logging trace. Take the logging trace. It is legal to ride it, but it is not legal to trim vegetation or saw out logs on it. In about a quarter mile you will cross Bob’s Branch. Bob’s Branch is a good flowing stream with lots of little waterfalls, and is the best, if not the only, place to water your horse on this trip. Crossing the branch, continue on for about another quarter mile, and you will come out on a Forest Service system road. Go left until you encounter the next intersection. Turn left, and from now on, every time you have a choice turn left again. You will have to ride around a gate or two, but notice that they have decals on them that say, “Horses Welcome” (Thanks North Carolina). Soon you will find yourself on the beautiful and high bald. Be sure and ride to the north end of the bald and see (and smell) the Frazier Firs! You are 5 miles from your trailer here (10 mile round trip).
Fodderstack Horse (95) Dec 2009, Feb 2009 (different), Nov 2007 Tazz Reid
Fodderstack Horse Trail is located along the TN/NC border and is over 4,000’ in altitude. It is a linear trail of over 13 miles running from Farr Gap near Citico to Beech Gap on the Cherohala Skyway. It is an easy pull up the Skyway and you can park in the paved area of the Unicoi Crest overlook. Many of our SABCH trails are listed as “difficult” on the FS maps, along Citico Creek I’ve wondered why on most of them, but a trip down Fodderstack will have you saying that they got this one right! There are lots of majestic views as you travel down the edge of the bear preserve for the entire length of the trail. The biggest problem is that is over 13 miles one way, and there is not anyway back except the way you came. For a shorter loop, you can try the Pine Ridge out of Citico, (you’ll have to park at the Warden’s Fields along Citico Creek to do this, but currently to make this loop you will have to use several miles of Citico Creek Road.
Pine Ridge (99)Dec 2016, Feb 2016, Mar 2008 Tazz Reid
Pine Ridge Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. It lies in the Citico Wilderness, and is accessed from Warden’s Fields on Citico Creek Road. There is good parking here. This trail is recommended for horses that are in fit shape. It is 3.6 miles of relentless climbing up to Fodderstack Horse Trail. A small stream crosses near the bottom, but that is about the only place your mount will find to drink. This difficult trail is worth the ride though. There are some incredible views from the top half of the trail. It is also in the bear reserve, so you may see one of the big black critters along the way. Prepare to find the top of the trail perhaps 10 degrees cooler than the bottom half due to the elevation change. –Happy Trails, Tazz Reid
Unicoi Mounain (117) Jan 2008 Tazz Reid
Located in Coker Creek, Unicoi Mountain is a loop trail that gives us about a 10 mile ride. There is parking lot at Doc Rogers Fields, just about a half mile off of Hwy 68 on Joe Brown Hwy. About a mile ride out of the parking lot you will ford historic Coker Creek, where gold is still panned. Another mile and you will cross Unicoi Lakes Road and soon you will begin a very steep and relentless climb. This is no trail for a fat and out of shape horse. Once on top (take a right at the intersection) and the trail is shared with the Benton McKaye Hiking Trail and runs along the North Carolina state line. You will notice old North Carolina Game Commission sings along your route. On the back side of Unicoi Mtn there are some precarious slanted rocks in the trail bed. Once again, this isn’t a place for a novice trail horse. Stay out of his mouth! Coming off the south side of the mountain there are a couple of places to access Joe Brown Highway. One is at historic Unicoi Gap, but if you go right on the wildlife road you will cross a stream to access Joe Brown, and that is worth remembering on a summer day since you haven’t seen water for a tough 7 or 8 miles. Turn right on Joe Brown Highway when you get to the road. It is a gravel road for the most part and not much traffic. In a couple of miles, you’ll be back at your trailer, and there is usually some good grass for your mount around the parking area. The Forest Service has rated this trail as “moderate” but I’d give this one a “difficult”. –Tazz Reid
Brookshire Creek (160) May 2007 Tazz Reid
The featured trail for this month is Brookshire Creek. The trail is located in the Tellico Ranger District and heads up at the confluence of Henderson Branch with Bald River. It is in the Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. The easiest pull in to it is to come up the Tellico River through Green Cove, and turn right onto Bald River Road as if you were going to Holly Flats Campground. On the trail you immediately cross Henderson Branch and then follow along along Bald River for about a mile where you will make your first crossing of Bald River itself. After a couple of more miles you will come to the intersection of the Benton McKaye, which is shared with the horses on this section. Turn right up the steep bank, and you will begin to climb along beautiful cascading waterfalls of Brookshire Creek. 5.7 miles from your trailer, you will enter a very spacious wildlife opening with lots of lush green grass for your horses. This is a few hundred feet below Beaver Dam Bald. You may run into Brook Trout fishermen on this trail, and during hunting season it is a favorite spot for the big game hunters. There are hitching posts in the grassy field of the trailhead.
Little Citico #1 (165-1) April 2012 April 2008 April 2011 Tazz Reid Closed Permanently by Forest Service
Little Citico #2 (165-2) June 2008 Tazz Reid Closed Permanently by Forest Service
Citico Creek Horse Trails - Young Branch Horse Camp
Citico Creek area has the only developed horse campground on the Tellico Ranger District. Young Branch Horse Camp is located across the road from the Little Citico Horse Trail system with seven campsites, first come, first served. The Little Citico Horse Trail system offers about 15 miles of backcountry trails in the Citico Creek Wilderness. Group sizes are limited to 12 inside the Wilderness boundary. Information is available at: www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cherokee/recreation/horseriding-camping/recarea/?recid=35042&actid=30
Little Citico #3 (165-3) Feb 2017, Sept 2008 Tazz Reid
Citico #3-The Trailhead for Citico #3 is at the concrete bridge just a mile up the road from Young Branch Horse Camp. It runs high up on the east bank of Big Citico Creek. In a half mile or so, just before you step onto the trail bridge, take a left turn up the hill. At this point you will travel through the hardwoods above a deep holler to you left for about a mile. At this point the trail turns into a maintained road. Stay on the maintained road until you come to a gate. Go around the first gate, and take a left immediately through another gate. From here it is maintained road for the next several miles before entering into the deep woods again. A mile later, the trail intersects with #2. GO UP THE MOUNTAIN AND BACK AROUND TO THE GRAVEL ROAD WHICH WILL COME BACK TO YOUR TRAILER
Little Citico #4 (165-4) (Bear Branch) Oct 2007 Tazz Reid
The Bear Branch Trail is a little over 4 miles long and is part of the of the Little Citico System. It is color coded with Blue Blazes and is listed “difficult”. The “difficult” listing is due to the fact that to enter the trail, you must first cross a 3 feet wide, non-side-railed horse bridge. After leaving Citico Creek you will turn up scenic Bear Branch. After leaving Bear Branch, you will begin about a mile of steep mountain climbing, and eventually cross over and come out on the yellow blazed trail (Citico #3). At this point you can take a left and loop back to the paring area, or build a longer loop to your right. Bear Branch is not a trail for a beginning horse, but most seasoned veterans will do fine as long as they take their time. The beautiful scenery is worth the difficulty.
Tavern Branch April 2010 Linda Norton
Tavern Branch: It is located just west of Indian Boundary Lake off the Cherohala Skyway in Tellico. We did a loop and it was 15.5 miles long. To get there we took the Skyway from Tellico to mile marker 14 and turned left on Rafter Rd (284). We drove north on this road for almost 2 miles and turned right on 2033 and immediately parked our rig (this made it easy to turn around and that road hits a gate in about ½ mile with no turn around). We rode north on 2033 and around the gate and continue going as straight north as you can, there will be several side roads going in. When you reach a Y in the road you take the road that goes straight ahead (here is where the circle starts as the road going off to the left is where you will come back out of on your return, it actually is the better road). At the next fork you bear to the left a little but are still heading north. Now the road is getting rougher and when you about 2-1/2 miles from your trailer, the road will be curving back sharply to your right and to the left is 40251 coming in (this is Tavern Branch). Stay on this old road for about 3-1/2 miles as it winds down the ravine and it comes out just to the south of Jakes Best Campground on Citico Road. Turn left on Citico and go about 3/10s of a mile and right across from Jakes Best, take gated road 5003 (This is Lost Cove which turns into Millers Ridge) You stay on this road for about 6 miles, taking lefts if you have to make a choice and circle back to the road your trailer is parked on. When you reach that road, go right and it is about 2 miles back to your trailer. This is one of the Hadorn’s favorite trails and they keep it cleared in summer. We had to step over lots of trees, but only had to get off and lead under one. We had great views of Fodderstack and occasionally could see Tellico Lake.