Simmons Gap is a very easy walk from the ranger station down to the park’s eastern border. It follows an old route used by the mountain people that inhabited the area.
Truthfully, we probably wouldn’t have bothered with this hike if it weren’t so close in proximity to the other two we selected for the day. Our Falcon Guide said it was nothing special, but it was one of the few hikes left in the park that we haven’t done at least once. (There are a few long 10-16 miles hikes still on the to-do list, but we’ll likely do those as backpacking trips)
The walk down Simmons Gap was about what I expected – a quiet walk down a shady path through the woods. There wasn’t much scenery – no views and no waterfalls. The stream running along the trail was nearly dry despite the decent rain we’ve had lately.
As we walked, we kept our eyes peeled for bears. We had seen a bear less than a tenth of a mile from where we parked our car. Also, the fire road was practically paved with bear scat. Besides the ridge of Knob Mountain, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much bear poop in one place. Unfortunately, all we saw was the poop… no bears!
There are many hints of a bygone era along the trail – old stone walls, crumbling foundations and the odd apple tree tucked into the forest. The spot where the fire road meets the park boundary is obviously used as a dump by people who are too rude and lazy to take their garbage to a proper facility. The streambed at the end of the trail was littered with everything from a broken baby stroller, to a beaten plastic Shrek suitcase to a box full of empty 2-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper. It was disgusting. I wish I knew what people were thinking when they did stuff like this. How could anyone back their car up to a beautiful mountain stream, and just empty their trunk-load of discarded property?
Despite the disappointment of seeing the litter, we still had a nice walk down the path. Although, I don’t think I’d recommend this hike to anyone.
- Distance – 1.6 miles out and back
- Elevation Change – About 200 feet
- Difficulty –1. Easy walking with very little elevation change.
- Trail Conditions – 4.5. This fire road is smooth and easy to walk on.
- Views –0. You’ll be in the woods the whole time.
- Waterfalls/streams – 1. The small stream is pretty and is often lined by stone walls, but it may be dry most of the summer.
- Wildlife – 3. There’s a good likelihood of seeing bears in this area.
- Ease to Navigate – 5. There is no place to go wrong. Follow the fire road straight out and back.
- Solitude – 4.5. Because there isn’t much to see in this area, not many people come this way.
Directions to trailhead:
At mile 73.2 on Skyline Drive you will see a small parking lot on the western side of the road (directly opposite of the sign for the Simmons Gap Ranger Station). Cross Skyline Drive, walking on the paved road to the ranger station. You will see a chain guarding a fire road. Cross the chain and start the trail down the fire road.