Road Prong Falls, Chimney Tops Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Road Prong Falls - 3.1 miles
Chimney Tops Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.1 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||3,475' - 4,345' (4,365' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+870' net elevation gain (+1,010' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Road Prong Falls - 3.1 Miles Round-Trip
The Road Prong drainage passes through a deep gorge separating Mount Mingus (east), and the long north-south ridge of Sugarland Mountain (west). Road Prong Falls tumble from its upper reaches, a secluded fall with a large, circular drop pool ideal for swimming and finding salamanders.
While Road Prong Falls are rather unassuming, there are a number of equally - if not more - compelling and accessible falls en route. Those with time can scramble to several unnamed falls that rival many Park destinations. Visitors will enjoy energetic streams, light crowds and a remote setting on the hike to Road Prong Falls:
The path is initially smooth, but grows rugged as you progress. The trail climbs steadily in a tall hardwood forest to a bridge just before the Road Prong Trail split (.9 miles : 3,870').
The Road Prong Trail keeps south and traces Road Prong deep into the woods on an uneven and overgrown path. Though only a mile from the trailhead, the dark forest, narrow valley, and roaring creek feel quite remote. A number of chutes drop down steep banks to the creek, usually requiring only a short walk upstream to view a hidden fall.
The trail crosses a bridge (1.3 miles : 4,120'), past which Road Prong Falls soon appear down to your right (1.55 miles : 4,375'). A short spur drops to the falls large, circular pool, which is draped in rhododendron and shaded by a towering canopy. You may also continue on the trail above the main fall to a scenic upper tier.
The Smoky Mountains are known as the Salamander capital of the world. Five families and at least 24 species of lung-less salamanders are found in the Park.
Salamanders breathe - or exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide - through blood vessels in their skin and linings of their mouths and throats. Lungless salamanders occur everywhere in the Smokies, preferring dark, moist crevices and debris piles along streams. Pools and banks near Road Prong Falls are ideal habitat for seeing salamanders.
- N35 38.125 W83 28.189 — 0.0 miles : Chimney Tops Trailhead
- N35 37.811 W83 28.157 — .5 miles : Steep, steady climb on variously rugged trail
- N35 37.498 W83 28.224 — .9 miles : Chimney Tops - Road Prong Trail split
- N35 37.185 W83 28.232 — 1.3 miles : Cross bridge, begin looking for fall on rt
- N35 36.919 W83 28.217 — 1.5 miles : Unmarked spur leading down to falls
- N35 36.907 W83 28.234 — 1.55 miles : Road Prong Falls
- Road Prong Falls are a great alternative to the oft-overcrowded Chimney Tops, and a relatively easy extension after climbing them.
- Allow extra time to explore waterfalls along Road Prong, and its turbulent convergence with Walker Camp Prong near the trailhead. This voluminous and scenic confluence is one of the Park's most popular swimming and fishing destinations.
- The five salamander families represented in the park are Cryptobranchidae, Proteidae, Salamandridae, Ambystomatidae, and Plethodontidae.
- This is bear habitat. Be mindful of your surroundings and follow proper protocols if encountered.
- 'Prong' simply means a fork or branch in a river or stream.
Camping and Backpacking Information
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
- Horses are not permitted on the Chimney Tops Trail or Road Prong Trail.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Horses are not permitted on the Chimney Tops Trail or Road Prong Trail.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Chimney Tops Trailhead is located 6.8 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441. The trailhead is located on the south (west) side of the road.
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)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)