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Schoolhouse Gap Trail

 3.0 (7)

A wildflower and birding route along Spence Branch to Schoolhouse Gap.

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Point to Point

2,082' 635 m


1,586' 483 m


496' 151 m


4' 1 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (8°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · River/Creek · Wildflowers

Family Friendly The trail is wide, relatively clear of rocks and roots, and follows a small creek for part of the trail. It only climbs 500 feet over 2 miles, so there isn't a lot of elevation gain.

Closed when the Laurel Creek Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Cades Cove. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.


Take the Laurel Creek Road to Cades Cove from the Townsend "Y". Follow the road for 3.5 miles and park at Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead on the right.

As the trail leaves the parking area, it climbs slightly along Spence Branch until it reaches Dorsey Gap.This is an old road that was supposed to connect Schoolhouse Gap to Bote Mountain Trail and ultimately Spence Field. Another road was supposed to have been built up the North Carolina side, but it was never completed and the road was abandoned. The trail is wide, and well maintained for easy travel. Right before the gap, there is a marshy area on the right of the trail good for birding or wildflower viewing. After you pass the gap, a narrow trail leads off to an area known as Whiteoak Sink. Caves in the Whiteoak Sink area provide homes for bats, although most caves are closed due to the threat of White Nose Syndrome.

As the trail continues to climb slightly to Schoolhouse Gap, you meet the Chestnut Top Trail at 2.0 miles, a trail that leads down to the Townsend Y. The trail continues for another .2 miles until it reaches Schoolhouse Gap and the park boundary. While there is no record of a school being at the gap, the name may refer to the fact that students walked through the gap in order to go to school in Townsend.

Private homes you see here are outside the park boundary and give the visitor an idea of what the area would be like if the woods weren't protected by the park service. You can now return to your car via the path you came.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers and birds can be seen along the trail, especially in areas around Spence Branch.

Bats inhabit the caves at Whiteoak Sink, but the caves are closed due to the threat from White Nose Syndrome. Wild hogs have been seen in this area as well.


Shared By:

David Hitchcock

Trail Ratings

  3.0 from 7 votes


in Tremont


  3.0 from 7 votes
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in Tremont


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14 Views Last Month
1,716 Since Sep 4, 2015



Enjoying the easy stroll down Schoolhouse Gap.
Jan 21, 2018 near Gatlinburg, TN
Finley Cove from Schoolhouse Gap.
Sep 4, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Spence Branch as it works its way toward Laurel Creek.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
The definition of a Rhododendron tunnel can be found on the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
The Laurel Creek Road passes close by the trail as you approach the Schoolhouse Gap parking lot.  This arch bridge crosses Laurel Creek and provides access from Townsend to Cades Cove.
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Schoolhouse Gap Trail as it climbs along Spence Branch.  This was an old road that connected Schoolhouse Gap to the Bote Mountain Trail
Feb 4, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN



Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 5 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In


Oct 31, 2021
Katlyn Gettelfinger
Jun 11, 2019
Thomas Mcadorey
white oak sinks 2.1mi — 12h 00m
May 17, 2019
John Ball
Easy trail not much elevation
Apr 18, 2019
Jeremy Mason
Came in from Chestnut Top, went to Schoolhouse Gap then back down to Laurel Creek Rd. Trail in great shape. 2.5mi
Apr 4, 2019
Alice Fennell
Took school house gap to turkey pen gap junction then returned to parking area 2.2mi
Feb 27, 2019
Mark Weiss
Schoolhouse gap to Whiteoak Sink Rainbow Falls Cave 5.5mi
Jan 5, 2019
Kenny Martin
Jan 1, 2019
Shaun Anon