This strenuous 8.5-mile loop passes the historic John Oliver Place before climbing to the ridgeline of Rich Mountain. From here the loop ribbons through the pines, serving up big views of Cades Cove and Townsend before a downward plunge. Additional highlights include creek crossings and wildlife sightings – potentially turkeys, deer and bears. Once the climb begins, you'll escape the crowds.
The loop is comprised of three trails: Rich Mountain Loop (3.4 miles), Indian Grave Gap (2.9 miles) and Crooked Arm Ridge (2.2 miles).
For the best views from atop the mountain, hike from late fall though early spring, when foliage does not block your sight lines. To avoid a steep and rocky climb up Indian Grave Gap Trail, hike the loop in a clockwise direction.
You can access the Rich Mountain Loop Trail from the parking lot at the orientation shelter at the start of the Cades Cove Loop Rd. At the western end of the lot, cross the road to the marked trailhead.