The Middle Prong Trail is one of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is strenuous, but not TOO strenuous because the trail is wide in most places and well-maintained. We would not, however, describe it as easy because it ascends the entire time (until you turn around and go the other way) and sections of the path are quite rocky. If you are in good health, we HIGHLY recommend you hike this trail because of the strange and beautiful things you will see along the way – from waterfalls to Cadillacs!
The trail begins at the very end of Tremont Road. To get to Tremont, head into the Smoky Mountains in the direction of Cades Cove. After a few miles, you will come to Tremont Road on your left. Taking that road will take you past the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and shortly thereafter the paved road gives way to gravel. When the gravel road ends, you are at the beginning of the trail. We saw a black bear cub in the woods along the way, so we knew this was going to be a good hike.
A metal bridge crossing the Little River begins your journey. The entry point to the trail was formerly a community known as Tremont, a thriving lumber camp that had its own post office, store, church, movie theater and more.1 That is one of the things that makes this trail fascinating – the remnants of the people who once lived and worked in these mountains that you find along the way. That and the waterfalls! Another aspect we love about this trail is that it closely follows the river for several miles.
The highlight of the trip is a set of waterfalls called Indian Flats Falls. This is a series of 10 to 15 foot waterfalls that cascade into one another.2 If you find the right spot to enter the surrounding forest, you can make your way to an incredible viewing spot, in a sort-of lagoon that leads to the next fall. It is one of the most beautiful spots you will ever lay your eyes on.
Hikers are a generous people, and on the day we were exploring the trail, an arrow made of sticks had been laid on the trail pointing the way. Hint: you can hear the waterfalls when you get near the spot, so that will also help you find it.
If you are winded at this point on your journey, you can turn around and head back. If you are still feeling fresh, you can carry on, toward Greenbrier Ridge Trail, Panther Creek Trail, and campsite number 28.
As if the incredible river views and waterfalls weren’t enough, this trail is made even more fascinating by the artifacts of those who lived in the mountains in years past. You will see an old brick chimney remaining from a long-gone house.
But the most strange thing is an old Cadillac. We have heard of this before, and there are photos online of those who have found it before, even posing as if they were driving it. That is no longer possible as a tree has fallen perfectly on top of the car. So while it is demolished, it is still there, and pieces of the car are lying about. Who once drove this car? And why abandon a Cadillac in the middle of the woods?
Even more odd, very near the Cadillac, we discovered many broken plates. Pieces of the plates, drinking glasses and other items were aligned along some logs. Where did these old dishes come from? Why are they aligned in such a manner? Does this reflect some Appalachian ritual performed by mountain people? It is a joke? Perhaps we will never know, but it is weird (and a little bit spooky).
We had much more difficulty finding the relics described above than we did the waterfalls. We had read that the car is found 1.9 miles up the trail, so that gave us a general idea.3 But there was no clearly marked path telling us where to go and no arrow made out of sticks. We had to search the woods until we found it. Totally worth it!
The editorial staff of the Historic Gatlinburg Inn has hiked several trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, and this is our favorite so far. But it depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for scenic views of the mountains, this is not really the trail for that. This one takes you deep into the mountains so you can see things that you can’t see any other way. We also loved that it winds along the river. The waterfalls are incredible.
Another thing we enjoyed about the trail is that it was not extremely busy, at least on the day we were there. This may also have something to do with the fact that it is off the main roadway and is harder to get to than some other trails.
Book your room at the Historic Gatlinburg Inn, then head on out to the mountains and find your adventure today.