quilliam cave
October 13, 2021

Everyone loves to find hidden gems in the Smoky Mountains, and one of the best kept secrets of the national park is Courthouse Rock Trail! From huge natural rock features to a beautiful waterfall, there are all kinds of things to see along this hike! Learn even more about Courthouse Rock Trail, a secret hike in the Smokies you don’t want to miss:

About the Trail

courthouse rock trail

One of the first things you should know about this secret hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains is that it’s not on the official national park map. Don’t let that deter you from finding the trail and hiking it, though! Many hobbyist hikers enjoy exploring undesignated trails, and this is a great one to try!

Courthouse Rock Trail is considered difficult with its elevation gain and since the trail isn’t easily laid out. There are several areas along the trail where you will cross creeks on foot, and there are junctions in the trail where you must choose which way to go. Cairns, or rock formations people have set up, point hikers towards the correct direction of which way to head towards the features at the end of the trail.

In order to find the trailhead, you should use exact GPS coordinates. These coordinates will place you across the street from the trailhead where the parking area is. Most hikers use their GPS to ensure they are staying on the right path as they hike through the woods.

Features Along Courthouse Rock Trail

There are several unique features along this secret hiking trail in the Smokies you will want to see, from a waterfall to a huge rock formation. Here are the top interesting spots you’ll want to find as you hike this trail:

Moonshine Cave

road turn branch falls

One of the first features you’ll come across is Moonshine Cave. This man-made cave is made of rocks stacked over a creek and was used as a refrigeration system. It may have also been used as a moonshine still.

Road Turn Branch Falls

After you pass the cave, there will be a split in the trail, and you’ll probably hear the waterfall before you see it. Turn left at this split, and you’ll make your way down the side of the mountain. Road Turn Branch Falls has 3 tiers of water, and it’s a hidden waterfall you will definitely want to find!

Courthouse Rock

courthouse rock

The reason many people hike Courthouse Rock Trail is to find the natural rock feature the trail is named after. If you continue right at the split for the waterfall, you’ll hike for a while until you come to another split with a carin. Take a left at this cairn and keep hiking until you see another cairn that points you to go right. After a few more minutes along the trail, you’ll see Courthouse Rock come into view. This natural formation is the only free standing rock formation in the Smoky Mountains. It’s sheer size will impress you, and it is thought that Cherokee would hold court meetings at the rock.

Quilliam Cave and Falls

Another interesting feature on this hiking trail is Quilliam Cave and Quilliam Falls. At the second cairn, if you keep going straight instead of heading right to Courthouse Rock, you will find Quilliam Cave. There are hundreds of rocks in the mouth of the cave, and people love to explore this area and take in the incredible views.

If you’re an avid hiker and want to find some hidden gems off the beaten path, then Courthouse Rock Trail is the next hiking trail you need to explore! You’ll have a blast finding all of these features. Learn more about hiking in the Smoky Mountains before you head out!