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Charlies Bunion Trail Featured
Best Hikes on the East Coast

Charlies Bunion Trail Hike

  • 8 miles - Moderate Effort
  • Or: Extra 1 Mile to Jump Off
  • 4-5 Hours (Total)
  • Expect to See Some Other Hikers
  • 1,900 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 6,100 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

Charlies Bunion Trail is an underrated hike; it's among the best day hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's challenging without being too hard and offers incredible views and a mini-Application Trail experience. The Charlies Bunion Trail is one of my favorites in the park.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions
  • Where to Park
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations

Where is Charlies Bunion Trail?

Charlies Bunion Trail Parking
The hike starts at the Newfound Gap parking area, just off the main road through the park, route 441.

The trailhead is at Newfound Gap, nearly a mile above sea level on the TN and NC border. Use this trailhead address:
Newfound Gap Parking Area, Bryson City, NC 28713

You need a parking tag if you are leaving your vehicle to hike. You can get them at the Visitor Center with a credit card 24 hours a day.

Charlies Bunion Trail Parking Lot
The parking lot is large but can fill up, especially with drivers stopping for the views. If there are no spots, just hang out, and a parking spot will surely open up.

I recommend doing this hike at sunrise. You'll get great colors, your best chance at seeing the "smoky" vapor from the trees, and less crowds.

Gear Recommendations

Charlies Bunion Trail Gear
Having comfortable footwear, such as trail runners or hiking shoes, is important. Some people also find trekking poles useful.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated June 2024)

Charlies Bunion Trail Maps

Charlies Bunion Trail Blaze
The majority of this hike is along the Appalachian Trail (aka "the AT") which is marked with these white blazes. There are also trail signs at the junctions along the way.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Charlies Bunion Trail Elevation
On your way to Charlies Bunion there's a gradual climb. Around Icewater Shelter you descend towards Charlies Bunion. On the way back, you do it in reverse.

3D  Map

Charlies Bunion Trail 3d
The hike follows the spine of the mountain. On your right is North Carolina, on your left, Tennessee.

Worth Noting

Charlies Bunion
Charlies Bunion is named in honor of mountain guide Charles Connor's foot bunion. His friend and conversationist, Horace Kephart, noted the rock resembled Charlie's bunion and submitted the name to the government. They bit, and it appeared on the official USGS map.

Charlies Bunion Hike Directions

Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 1
The hike starts next to the Roosevelt Memorial.
Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 2
You're starting on the Appalachian Trail, which we'll take almost all the way to the end at Charlies Bunion.
Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 3
You'll hike straight for 1.7 and then reach the Sweet Heifer Creek Trail. Continue straight on the Appalachian Trail.
Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 4
At 2.7 miles you'll reach the intersection of the Boulevard Trail. Make the hard right and start a downhill section of trail.
Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 5
As you approach 4 miles in, look for the sign for the side trail to Charlies Bunion.
Charlies Bunion Trail Directions 6
Charlies Bunion is a short distance down the trail. From here, just turn around and go back the way you came.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.