Mount Sterling Loop via Baxter Creek and Big Creek Trails
This is a difficult loop trail to Mount Sterling with its steel fire tower. It is best done as a one or two night backpacking hike.
This enjoyable and varied trip goes by Midnight Hole, Mouse Creek Falls, Brakeshoe Spring, Campsite 37, Mount Sterling, and Campsite 38. It takes in waterfalls and forest before climbing to Mount Sterling Ridge in the cool high country. The descent on the Baxter Creek Trail falls over 4000 feet which is one of the greatest elevation changes of any trail in the Park.
When doing this as a day hike, consider doing this clockwise. This tackles the steep climb up to Mount Sterling up front, with a long -- but more casual -- descent.
From I-40 take Tennessee exit 451 and follow signs for Big Creek. Upon entering the Park follow the narrow dirt road to its end at a large parking area. The signed Big Creek Trail leaves from the access road just before the picnic area. The return route enters the picnic area across the footbridge from the parking lot.
This is a difficult hike and is not recommended for younger children. Even older children should be in good shape and experienced hikers.