Mount Sterling Loop via Baxter Creek and Big Creek Trails

3 reviews #4 hike out of 614 in
16.7 mi
8 hrs 11 min
4,094 ft
Elev Gain


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.

Getting Started

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.

Taking Children

This is a difficult hike and is not recommended for younger children. Even older children should be in good shape and experienced hikers.

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Public Tracks

Brian Whited 10 years, 9 months ago
Great Smoky National Park - Mount Sterling Summit via Big Creek, Swallow Fork, and Benton MacKaye Trails
Weekend trip with some buddies to the northern end of Great Smoky National Park.  4100 feet of elevation gain to bag this summit.  An old steel lookout tower provides an outstanding view at the top, although it was much to cold to enjoy it too much when we went.  Night-time temps on the mountain were at 4 degrees F.  Burrrr. 
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GreatFlembino 3 years, 7 months ago
Big Creek Loop, Mt. Sterling, Smokies (3/23/18)
Beautiful loop trail in the Eastern Smokies. Peak at Mt. Sterling and hike along many beautiful creeks and rivers. This is a challenging, but very worthwhile hike. We camped at site 37 and Mt. Sterling Peak. 37 Was beautiful and both camping areas had plenty of space.
jhhoover 1 year, 3 months ago
Mount Sterling Loop from Big Creek Picnic Area
Training day hike with 41 lb pack while ascending.
Nathanlcrockett 11 months ago
Mt Sterling
Met Doug/Caro/Sam/Dad
Will 7 months, 3 weeks ago
sdflkj99 1 year, 11 months ago
rafender 2 years, 2 months ago
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Chris Matos 4 years, 5 months ago
Dan Riffle 5 years, 3 months ago