Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
Newfound Gap Road, also referred to as US-441, is the southern terminus for this popular segment.
Given that the road is maintained year-round, this serves as a popular trailhead and resupply point for the weary thru-hiker.
A large bus, trailer, and RV parking area also make it extremely popular among tourists. For those expecting to turn this into an overnight trip, Icewater Spring Shelter is only 3 miles into this segment, though its popularity and proximity to the trailhead mean it is frequently near its capacity.
The Tricorner Knob Shelter lies directly in the middle, roughly 15.5 miles north of Newfound Gap.
For those looking for a shorter hike, Charlies Bunion, a rare and picturesque rock outcropping, is an 8-mile round trip from Newfound Gap.
According to Wikipedia, this rock formation, resting at 5,565' above sea level, "..comprises the western wing of the Sawteeth, a series of narrow, jagged cliffs connecting the high peaks of the Central Smokies with the high peaks of the Eastern Smokies." Heading north, an incredibly difficult stretch of trail lies between Charlies Bunion and Tricorner Knob.
Your reward for completing this rugged piece of the Smokies is the view from atop Mount Guyot, the 4th highest mountain in the Eastern United States. The final portion of this loop is a long, and often steep, descent down to the Davenport Trail Shelter, just before reaching the Pigeon River and Interstate 40 intersection. Worth noting, this portion of the Appalachian Trail falls almost entirely within the boundaries of the National Park Service, meaning dogs are not allowed to use the trail.
If you are completing a thru-hike with your dog, research your options for this segment, as you do have some alternatives. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/chimneys-alternative-charlies-bunion.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Guyot_(Great_Smoky_Mountains) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlies_Bunion