Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail Loop, Deep Creek Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail Loop - 12.6 miles
Deep Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||12.6 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,870' - 1,870' (3,417' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,547' net elevation gain (+2,233' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail Loop - 12.6 Miles Round-Trip
The Deep Creek, Martins Gap and Indian Creek trails form a 12.6 mile loop through oak and hardwood forests deep in the Smoky Mountains backcountry. Visitors will enjoy miles of rushing streams and abundant wildlife throughout.
The following description begins at the Deep Creek Trailhead near Bryson City and travels clockwise:
The Deep Creek trail begins on wide, packed gravel to Tom Branch Falls, which spill from a small tributary on the far side of Deep Creek (.25 miles : 1,888'). It continues over the first of many bridges to the Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail split (.75 miles : 1,935'). Clockwise loop travel begins here.
The Deep Creek Trail veers left to connections for Juney Whank Falls (.85 miles : 1,960') and the Deep Creek Loop Trail (1.75 miles : 2,002'). It continues to a 3 way fork, where the main trail branches right on the first of several steep climbs up and down the east valley wall (2.15 miles : 2,035').
A short, steep push on narrow track drops back to the creek at Backcountry Campsite #60 (2.55 miles : 2,075'). It leaves site #60 for another steep climb deeper into the forest before easing back to the creek at 4.1 miles (2,285'). Travel now undulates over Deep Creek with limited access and only partial views.
The trail finds the creek once again at Backcountry Campsite #59 on a level bank with good fishing access (4.85 miles : 2,415'). It continues through a crowded understory to Backcountry Campsite #58 (5.25 miles : 2,445'), also on a wide bank with slow moving water.
The trail rises steadily in a lush forest to Backcountry Campsite #57 at the Deep Creek Trail - Martins Gap Trail junction (5.85 miles : 2,520'). Turn right (east) on the Martins Gap Trail.
The Martins Gap Trail steepens considerably in a hardwood and oak forest with emerging views of surrounding peaks. It climbs with no rest through dense corridors of laurel to the Sunkota Ridge Trail - Benton Mackaye Trail junction (7.25 miles : 3,415').
This is Martins Gap, the high point of the loop and ideal place to break and explore. The Martins Gap Trail now tilts downhill on a fast, winding descent that includes several bridge crossings (8.05 miles and 8.45 miles) to Indian Creek on the east side of the loop.
The pace quickens to Backcountry Campsite #46, where the Martins Gap Trail becomes the Indian Creek Trail (8.65 miles : 2,715'). The Indian Creek Trail glides downhill on an old wagon road beside Indian Creek. Wide, level banks offer easy stream access and are ideal places to see deer, bear, turkey, fox, and coyote.
The trail crosses more bridges to a second connection for the Deep Creek Loop Trail (11.25 miles : 2,135') and Stone Pile Gap Trail (11.5 miles : 2,110'). Mild travel continues to Indian Creek Falls, a short but voluminous cascade with a large pool ideal for wading (11.8 miles : 1,950').
A few steps away is the Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail split, where you began the loop. Retrace your steps back to the Deep Creek Trailhead to complete the hike (12.6 miles : 1,870').
- N35 27.877 W83 26.012 — Deep Creek Trailhead
- N35 28.010 W83 25.795 — .25 miles : Tom Branch Falls
- N35 28.353 W83 25.717 — .75 miles : Deep Creek - Indian Creek Trail split
- N35 28.417 W83 25.802 — .85 miles : Juney Whank Falls Trail split
- N35 29.093 W83 25.436 — 1.75 miles : Deep Creek Loop Trail connection #1
- N35 29.591 W83 25.612 — 2.55 miles : Backcountry Campsite #60
- N35 29.904 W83 26.028 — 3.25 miles : Steep, rolling travel away from creek
- N35 30.524 W83 25.874 — 4.1 miles : Brief reprieve beside creek
- N35 30.832 W83 25.541 — 4.85 miles : Backcountry Campsite #59
- N35 31.022 W83 25.527 — 5.25 miles : Backcountry Campsite #58
- N35 31.237 W83 25.127 — 5.85 miles : Martins Gap Trail split and site #57
- N35 31.047 W83 24.921 — 6.6 miles : Steep, unabated climb through laurel forest
- N35 31.160 W83 24.477 — 7.25 miles : Martins Gap - Sunkota Ridge Trail split
- N35 31.092 W83 24.142 — 8.05 miles : Cross first of several bridges on descent
- N35 30.642 W83 23.966 — 8.65 miles : Backcountry Campsite #46
- N35 30.102 W83 24.063 — 9.25 miles : Martins Gap - Indian Creek Trail junction
- N35 29.246 W83 24.468 — 10.25 miles : Gentle glide down wide gravel path
- N35 28.546 W83 25.063 — 11.25 miles : Deep Creek Loop Trail connection #2
- N35 28.379 W83 25.261 — 11.5 miles : Stone Pile Gap Trail split
- N35 28.365 W83 25.645 — 11.8 miles : Indian Creek Falls
- N35 28.353 W83 25.717 — 11.85 miles : Complete loop at DCT - ICT split
- N35 27.877 W83 26.012 — 12.6 miles : Deep Creek Trailhead
- Multiple trail connections, tubing, bicycling, backcountry camping, and easy waterfall access make this one of the most versatile day and overnight hikes in the Park.
- Dayhikers may consider traveling counter-clockwise to take advantage of steadier, smoother grades on the 1,547' net climb to Martins Gap.
- Wildlife of all kinds is abundant in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bear sightings are common, but you're just as likely to find salamanders, frogs, and snakes along the way.
- Note distance discrepancies between signs related to the Deep Low Gap Trail, Indian Creek Trail, and Backcountry Campsite #46.
- Enjoy waterfalls from a safe distance, and be mindful of slippery surfaces. Do not attempt to climb the falls. Deaths have occurred at numerous falls throughout the Park.
Camping and Backpacking Information
There are five designated backcountry campsites on the Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail Loop described above.
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
- Bikes are permitted on the Indian Creek Trail up to Backcountry Campsite #46. Bikes are permitted on the Deep Creek Trail up to the Loop Trail split.
- Tubing is permitted from the trailhead area north to the Indian Creek Trail junction.
- Horses and Stock are permitted on the entire Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail Loop.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Deep Creek Trailhead is located just north of Bryson City, NC in the southwest quadrant of the Park. The Deep Creek Trailhead is located 44.6 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and 16.3 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, travel 12.4 miles south on Highway 441 to Highway 19. Veer right on Highway 19 and take this into Bryson City. Look for signs pointing to the Deep Creek Trailhead and Campground - there are several in Bryson City and all are viable routes.
Travel .5 miles from the Highway 19 turnoff in Bryson City to Deep Creek Road. Veer right on Deep Creek Road and travel 1.5 miles to Tooth Creek Road. Turn left on Tooth Creek Road and follow this to the Deep Creek Trailhead parking lot.
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)