Lead Cove TrailModerate

Laurel Creek Rd / Townsend, TN

Lead Cove Trail

Distance (One Way)

1.8 miles

Elevation Gain

1,168 feet


Laurel Creek Rd


Townsend, TN

Water Xing


Trail Description Written by Caroline Sullivan

Lead Cove Trail is a moderate to strenuous 1.8 mile trail that is most often hiked as a route to reach Rocky Top on Thunderhead Mountain. You will find the trailhead about a mile from the entrance to Cades Cove, near Turkeypen Ridge and Finley Cane trails.

There is streetside parking available at the trailhead, but spaces are limited. Like with any other Smoky Mountains hike it is best to arrive early to guarantee a parking spot.

Upon crossing Sugar Cove Prong near the beginning of this trail you might see the rocky remains of an old chimney and stone foundation on the left. This is where the Tipton family, some of the first white settlers in the cove area, once had a cabin in the 1820s.

The trail goes through mostly mixed hardwood forest, making it a good spot for wildflowers in the spring. Plenty of rhododendron coats the sides of the trail.

Lead Cove Trail is the quickest way to reach Spence Field and Rocky Top. Connecting Lead Cove Trail to Bote Mountain Trail for 2.9 miles will take you to the Appalachian Trail. From here, take a left and continue for about 0.25 of a mile to reach Spence Field. Continue on the AT for about another mile (and up another 500 feet) from here to reach Rocky Top.

#rocky top
#thunderhead mountain
#townsend tn

Lead Cove Trail Elevation Profile

Lead Cove Trail Elevation Profile Tom Dunigan's Elevation Profiles

Trail Difficulty Scales Explained

Elevation Grade


Very Steep

Paul Petzoldt Scale






Shenandoah Scale






Photo Gallery (3)

The above list of hiking trails in the Smokies is incomplete and constantly being updated. If you have information or photos you would like to contribute, please contact [email protected].

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