Distance (One Way)
Whiteoak Sink is an easy to moderate hike near Townsend, TN. This 4.6 mile round trip out and back trail is known for abundant wildflowers in the early spring months including various species of Trillium, Rue Anemone, and Violets. Hikers are also treated to a small waterfall.
The trail, located between the Townsend Wye and Cades Cove, is often closed or has restricted access to protect the remaining bat population and to reduce trampling of sensitive wildflower species. It is best to check with the National Park Service prior to making plans to make sure the trail is open and accessible.
To get to White Oak Sinks, park at the Schoolhouse Gap Trailhead located on Laurel Creek Road in the GSMNP. The pull out is located on the right 3.7 miles from the Townsend Wye. The trailhead is on the right of the parking lot. A small stream known as Spence Branch runs adjacent to the trail.
Near 1.1 miles, there is a sign for Turkeypen Ridge Trail on the left. Approximately 100 yards past this point is a narrow path marked with a small gate that leads to White Oak Sinks. This trail meanders for 1.2 miles to through a beautiful meadow and rock outcropping before it reaches Blowhole Cave. There are four caves in the area including one with a quaint waterfall. These caves are home to a protected and endangered bat species. Please be mindful and maintain distance. It is illegal to enter any of the caves.
This area is like an art museum. Use only your eyes and keep your voice low. In an effort to protect the area, follow these guidelines:
- Obey the signage. This is a fragile area.
- Stay on the existing footpaths to minimize impact.
- Limit noise. Bats are sleeping.
- Do not enter any caves.
- Do not disturb, remove or touch vegetation.
The following is am inscription on a sign in the area:
This gate was installed for your safety and for the protection of important bat habitat. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated in helping to preserve this environment by not attempting to bypass or vandalize this gate. If you manafe to get inside, you coul place yourself in great danger from oxygen-deficient air, toxic gases, unstable rock, and vertical drop-offs, and you might harm the bats within by disturbing their habitat.
Bats play vital roles in ecosystems worldwide. Most North American bats eat insects, many of which are crop pests that cost farmers billions of dollars every year. A single bat may consume thousands of insects in one night. Other bats feed on flower nectar and are primary pollinators of desert plants such as the sauara cactus and the agave. In tropical climates, fruit-eating bats are primary agents in diapersing seeds and thus maintaining forest ecosystems. Contrary to common belief, bats are passive toward humans and are no more prone to carryng diseases such as rabies than most other wild animals. However, and bat or other wild animal that can easily be caught is more likely than others to be sick, and should never be handled.
Because bat habitat is threatened by increased urban development, deforestation, and exploitation of caves, abandoned mines have become critical to the survival of numorous bat species. Depending upon specific factors such as location, airflow, and temperature, bat may use portions of a cave or mine to hibernate in winter, to give birth and raise young, or to stop over during migration or nightly foraging. People entering this mine could cause the bats to abandon their home and could threaten their survival - particularly during hibernation and maternity seasons.
Bats are among the world's most beneficial, yet vulnerable, mammals. Please help us to protect them.[+ Read More]
Trail Difficulty Scales Explained
Paul Petzoldt Scale
Photo Gallery (7)
- Abrams Falls Trail (4.2 mi)
- Ace Gap Trail (5.4 mi)
- Albright Grove Loop Trail (0.7 mi)
- Alum Cave Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5 mi)
- Andrews Bald via Forney Ridge Trail (1.8 mi)
- Anthony Creek Trail (3.5 mi)
- Appalachian Trail Smoky Mountains Segment (71.7 mi)
- Baskins Creek Trail (2.7 mi)
- Baxter Creek Trail (Mt. Sterling) (6.2 mi)
- Big Creek Trail (Mouse Creek Falls, Midnight Hole) (5.8 mi)
- Bote Mountain Trail (6.6 mi)
- Boulevard Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.4 mi)
- Bradley Fork Trail (7.3 mi)
- Brushy Mountain Trail (Mt. LeConte) (4.9 mi)
- Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.9 mi)
- Cataract Falls (Fighting Creek, Cove Mountain Trail) (0.5 mi)
- Charlies Bunion via Appalachian Trail (4.2 mi)
- Charlies Bunion via Kephart Prong Loop (14.2 mi)
- Chestnut Top Trail (4.3 mi)
- Chimney Tops Trail (2 mi)
- Clingmans Dome Trail (0.6 mi)
- Cooper Road Trail (10.5 mi)
- Cove Mountain Trail (8.5 mi)
- Crooked Arm Ridge Trail (2.2 mi)
- Cucumber Gap Trail (2.4 mi)
- Dry Sluice Gap Trail (4.2 mi)
- Eagle Creek Trail (8.9 mi)
- Elkmont Nature Trail (0.8 mi)
- Finley Cane Trail (2.8 mi)
- Forney Ridge Trail (5.4 mi)
- Gabes Mountain Trail (Hen Wallow Falls) (6.6 mi)
- Gatlinburg Trail (1.9 mi)
- Goldmine Trail (0.8 mi)
- Grapeyard Ridge Trail (7.6 mi)
- Gregory Bald Trail (Gregory Bald) (7.3 mi)
- Gregory Ridge Trail (Gregory Bald) (5 mi)
- Grotto Falls (Trillium Gap Trail) (1.4 mi)
- Hannah Mountain Trail (9.5 mi)
- Hatcher Mountain Trail (2.6 mi)
- Huskey Gap Trail (4.1 mi)
- Indian Grave Gap Trail (3.7 mi)
- Jakes Creek Trail (3.7 mi)
- Kephart Prong Trail (2 mi)
- Laurel Falls Trail (4 mi)
- Lead Cove Trail (1.8 mi)
- Little Bottoms Trail (2.3 mi)
- Little Brier Gap Trail (Walker Sisters Cabin) (1.4 mi)
- Little Greenbrier Trail (4.3 mi)
- Little River Trail (6.1 mi)
- Low Gap Trail (5.4 mi)
- Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail (7.4 mi)
- Lumber Ridge Trail (4.1 mi)
- Lynn Camp Prong Trail (3.7 mi)
- Maddron Bald Trail (Albright Grove) (7.3 mi)
- Meigs Creek Trail (3.5 mi)
- Meigs Mountain Trail (6 mi)
- Metcalf Bottoms Trail (0.7 mi)
- Middle Prong Trail (Indian Flat Falls) (4.1 mi)
- Miry Ridge Trail (5 mi)
- Mt. Cammerer Trail via Low Gap + AT (5.6 mi)
- Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail (5.3 mi)
- Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome (7.9 mi)
- Noland Creek Trail (9.2 mi)
- Old Settlers Trail (15.8 mi)
- Old Sugarlands Trail (3.9 mi)
- Panther Creek Trail (2.3 mi)
- Porters Creek Trail (Fern Branch Falls) (3.7 mi)
- Rabbit Creek Trail (7.8 mi)
- Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte) (6.6 mi)
- Ramsey Cascades Trail (4 mi)
- Rich Mountain Loop (8.7 mi)
- Roundtop Trail (7.5 mi)
- Russell Field Trail (3.5 mi)
- Schoolhouse Gap Trail (Whiteoak Sink) (2.1 mi)
- Shuckstack Fire Tower via the AT (3.5 mi)
- Spence/Russell Field Loop (13.7 mi)
- Spruce Flats Falls Trail (Buckeye) (1 mi)
- Sugarland Mountain Trail (11.9 mi)
- Swallow Fork Trail (4 mi)
- Sweat Heifer Creek Trail (3.7 mi)
- The Jump Off (Boulevard Trail) (3.3 mi)
- Thunderhead Mountain (Rocky Top) (6.1 mi)
- Trillium Gap Trail (Grotto Falls, Mt. LeConte) (8.9 mi)
- Turkeypen Ridge Trail (3.6 mi)
- Twentymile Loop Trail (2.9 mi)
- Twentymile Trail (5 mi)
- Whiteoak Sink via Schoolhouse Gap Trail (2.3 mi)
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].