It is possible to take a loop in order to avoid the boring out and back by returning to Cosby via the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail. This is not a day hike for the meek as it will tally over 13 miles of hiking, 5 miles going uphill, but this can be easily done without a heavy pack if hikers start early.
The first 2.9 miles up from Cosby to Low Gap are a back breaker. It is straight up to Low Gap and then most of the two miles up to the Mt. Cammerer Trail is uphill as well. Mt. Cammerer can also be accessed through the Big Creek Campground. It is a six mile trip from this parking lot.
Coming in at 4,928 feet, Mt. Cammerer is not among the highest mountains in the Smoky Mountains or along the Appalachian Trail (AT). However, it does feature an old fire tower lookout on its summit affording an amazing 360 degree vista of the surrounding mountains.
Since the Smoky Mountains are completely tree covered, great lookouts are not easy to find. Hikers are frequently frustrated from seeing amazing views from nearby trees even on the peak of mountains. There are many spots in the park where there are balds (fields on the tops of mountains), cliffs, or treeless spaces, but they are not always easy to find.
Firetowers avoid this dilemma by taking visitors up and above the tree line. Mt. Cammerer was built in 1937 by one of the New Deal work groups trying to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression.
For those afraid of heights, they will enjoy this fire lookout as it consists of a few stairs to up to a veranda that circles the building with railing. Many firetowers, including Mt. Sterling, are flimsy stairs with steep stairways that climb a couple of hundred feet into the teeth of the wind. These can be a frightening experience for those afflicted with the fear of falling our heights.
Fall is the ideal time to enjoy the view from Mt. Cammerer. Most of the crowds hit the Newfound Gap road up to Clingman’s Dome, so the Mt. Cammerer day hike also has the advantage of escaping the crowds from Gatlingburg.
To get to Cosby Campground take 321 north out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is about twenty miles to the Cosby Campground. Park in the hiker campground and follow signs to either Low Gap or the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail. The Mt. Cammerer Lookout is .6 miles off of the Appalachian Trail 2.1 miles north of Low Gap or three miles south of where the Lower Cammerer Trail meets the AT.
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