The Unicoi Crest above Tellico Plains


Cherokee Hiking Club
198 Crews Drive, Benton, TN 373




Unicoi Turnpike Trail Dayhike
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hike Leader: Marc Bernatti 423 261-2573

Hike Rating: easy

Hike Distance: around 3 miles, mostly downhill.  A car shuttle will be used; kids and pets are welcome. 

Hike Description: The hike will start up at the Unicoi Gap (TN/NC border) on Joe Brown Hwy and follow a centuries old route down, ending back out on Joe Brown Hwy. Up near the start, the wagon ruts and piled stone “walls” visibly define the historic turnpike that was built later.  This route through the gap was used by man for hundreds of years to cross over these mountains. De Sotto is believed to have traveled it in the 1500’s over the mountains, and it was also the route used to round up the Creeks, and later the Cherokees, for their removal from Tennessee and North Carolina.  The Cherokees were then assembled nearby at Coker Creek in Fort Armistead and the Doc Rogers Field.  

Along the way, we’ll pass the general area where it is thought that the Turnpike’s toll booth was located.  In addition, there is a Civil War era grave of a bushwhacked man, the site of a CCC camp (Camp Rolling Stone), and an old gold mine.  For those wanting a warm up before or a little cool down stroll afterwards, there is a short level walking loop along Coker Creek at Doc Rogers Field, located near the beginning of Joe Brown Hwy. The entrance road is on your left a few hundred yards past the Welcome Center/Post Office.

Directions: From Ducktown go about 20 miles North on Hwy 68. From Tellico Plains, travel 10 miles South on Hwy 68.  Meet at the Coker Creek Welcome Center/Post Office on Hwy 68 (Monroe County mile marker 34) at 2 PM. Depending on the number of participants we may be able to carpool from the Welcome Center.  We will work out a shuttle arrangement with some cars parked at the bottom of the trail and the rest shuttling up to the Gap.  The Welcome Center and everything else is closed up here on Sundays so, pack a snack and something to drink; you can take care of other needs at the Hardees in either Ducktown or Tellico plains.

Post Trip Report:    Six hikers, four ladies and two men, and one dog met at the Coker Creek Welcome Center this pleasant Sunday afternoon for this mostly down hill 2+ mile hike which for the most part is on or alongside the old Turnpike which is on an ages old route across these Appalachian Mountains.

The trail starts up at the Unicoi Gap on the TN and NC state line at the Benton MacKaye trail. We used a car shuttle; leaving one at the lower take out point and then drove up to park for the hike down. The trail crosses Joe Brown Highway a couple of times. The ‘modern’ highway builders had the equipment and different ideas on how to reach the Gap so, the historic Turnpike route was given back to Nature and left until this Turnpike segment was resurveyed and established as a trail by hikers and the folks from Coker Creek a few years ago.     

At times the trail goes right down the middle of the old Turnpike with the wagon ruts still clearly visible and bordered by rock ‘walls’ that were piled up from ‘road’ maintenance. The trail passes through the old CCC Camp, Camp Rolling Stone, where remnants of rock walls and building foundations remain visible.

A short side trail from the CCC Campsite goes up to a Civil War era gravesite of a bushwhacked man and what is believed to be the general location of the Turnpike’s toll booth. Further along, three of the ladies, drawn by the gold designation had to check out an abandoned gold mine which extends under the trail. None were brave enough to crawl in for a closer check.

While the first part of the hike had been cleared of blow downs and dead falls earlier in the week, the last segment gave everyone an opportunity to knee crawl or Limo under a couple of trees across the trail. No Limbo demonstrations were made. A patch of Cedar something seemed to delight a couple of the hikers. Seems the plant produces a very useful contribution to some ritual.

At take out we all piled into the bed of the pick up for a ride back to retrieve the other cars left up at the Gap. Enjoying this pleasant Sunday afternoon hike in the woods and the history along the way were Bob and Effalenda Lee, Sheri Stewart, Jane Bohanon, Joanne Jackson, Marc Bernatti, and Essie.


  Contact the Webmaster