Photo Credit: Ron Jones on Flikr
Many people pass by the entrance to the Tremont Institute on their way to Cades Cove. They never know what beauty and adventure they are passing up. Tremont Institute is an educational center for nature appreciation and ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They state in their literature “Connecting people and nature in GSMNP is their mission”. Please read about the programs and volunteer opportunities this fabulous center has to offer @ www.gsmit.org
The road leading to the institute is the gateway to some of the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains. Just before arriving at the Tremont center you will come to the trailhead for the West Prong Trail. It is 5.4 miles in length and has a moderate difficulty level. Once on the trail at about 3/10 miles in you will come to a junction and you need to stay to the left which is the main trail – the side trail here goes downhill to an old cemetery. The first 1.4 miles of the trail is a steady climb and then it starts downhill to follow the West Prong of the Little River. Two miles along the trail you will cross the creek (there is no footbridge) and will find yourself at Campsite 18. This area is a great and popular spot for picnics and Trout fishing. You will want to stop at this lovely spot for a nice break or even camp in one of the 3 campsites located there (you will need a back country permit to do so).
Many people consider the Middle Prong Trail to be one of the best waterfall trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is fairly level and wide and accessible to people of most fitness levels. The Middle Prong Trail was actually an old railroad bed used by the Little River Lumber Company during its logging operation in the park. This hike has multiple water features including waterfalls and numerous cascades. At only 4/10 mile from the trailhead you come to Lower Lynn Camp Falls. It is a multi -tiered fall dropping about 35 feet. The upper portion of the Lower Lynn Camp Falls can be viewed about 100 yards up the trail. Lynn Camp Falls is located about 2/3 of a mile from the trailhead and is another multi -tiered fall. Along the way to Indian Flats fall you will see the remains of an old Cadillac from around the 20’s and the remains of the logging camp activity that took place there.
Four miles from the trailhead you will get to an unmarked side trail located several twists and turns past the footbridge. If you take this trail off to the right you will arrive shortly at Indian Flats Falls which is a beautiful 60 foot multi- tiered fall. Remember to take Trekking poles or at the very least a hiking stick with you to assist with balance during water crossings.
Enjoy exploring this area and stop by Tremont to find out more about all the wonderful programs and activities the Institute has to offer.