Noland Creek & Trail

Categories: Play, Horseback Riding, Hiking & Backpacking, Fishing, Backcountry Camping, Fishing for Wild Trout, Back Country Horse Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park... NC


  •  Easy access from Lake View Drive or "The Road to Nowhere" just outside of Bryson City
  •  Peaceful drive through a very secluded part of the GSMNP 
  •  Great trout stream with a good population of Rainbow and Brown Trout
  •  Brook Trout found in the headwaters 
  •  Noland Creek Trail follows the creek for the majority of it's length


The Local Scoop

We recommend trying Noland Creek for a number of reasons. One being it's a gorgeous and classic Smoky Mountain stream. Another valid reason is that it has a nice population of Rainbow Trout as well as some Brown Trout. The Rainbows are a blast to catch and can be aggressive even though their size is limited to 5 to 10 inches. The accessible Noland Creek Trail can be picked up just before you cross the first and only bridge on Lake View Drive.  There is a nice large parking area located on the left, just before you get to the bridge and trailhead.  The trailhead is located on the left as well.  There will be a brown national park trail sign by the road (see photo gallery).  Something you should know if you're a hiker and have no interest in horseback riding OR, if you're a horseback rider with no interest in hiking... this trail is shared between hikers and horseback riders, so be aware.  No worries however, this trail is wide enough that if you would happen upon one another, there will be plenty of room to say hello to each other without worrying about getting in each others way.
For the angler, this is a fantastic stream.  Imagine a classic Smoky Mountain stream and you've got Noland Creek.  With a very convenient location just outside of Bryson City, NC, this stream offers a great population of Rainbow trout and some Brown trout thrown in the mix.  The sizes range from 5 inches to 10, with 12 inches being a very large fish for this stream.  What the fish lack in size, they make up for in beauty.  The fish are "wild" meaning they have lived in the stream all of their lives.  The only "native" fish you'll find here is the upper reaches of the headwaters.  There you'll be so fortunate to catch the native Brook Trout.  Take advantage of the six campsites that are managed by the NPS (National Park Service) along this trail. One of which requires a reservation, number 61 located at the headwaters near the Noland Divide Trail junction. We suggest camping out at least one night to really enjoy fishing this creek to it's fullest. Our recommendation for a unique backcountry camping experience would be to venture down the Noland Creek Trail from the trailhead via Lake View Drive to the first trail split and sign (see photo gallery).  Here, you'll have the option to head South or North along the trail.  We recommend heading South towards Fontana Lake which is 1 mile from the trail sign.  This is an easy hike and offers great views of Noland Creek from the multiple bridge crossings that follow the creek as it twists towards it's ultimate destination, Fontana Lake.
If fishing, be sure to have your valid NC or TN fishing license on you at all times. Park Rangers do patrol this area and they will fine you if you are fishing without the proper licenses, equipment, etc. Be sure to review my fishing tips and advice to see what the regulations are for the Park.  If camping, remember to leave "no trace" and be sure to leave the campsite in better shape than you found it.  If camping at campsite #61 be sure to get your reservation in first. 
This trail became an instant favorite when I first visited this area of the park.  Be sure to head towards the "end" of Lake View Drive where the road suddenly ends.  Park at the small parking area and head toward the baracade and the obvious tunnel looming in the distance.  What a cool area.  Hike up to the tunnel and through it to see other trailheads for this area.

The Local Directions

From downtown Bryson City, NC take Everett Street across the railroad tracks and continue West, leaving town. Drive for 7.9 miles crossing into Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the road dubbed, "The Road to Nowhere" by the local residents of Swain County. At 5.2 miles after passing the Great Smoky Mountains sign for Lake View Drive access you'll find the parking area (just before the bridge) on the left.  This is a large parking area, very capable of accomodating multiple cars and horse trailers.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike2 (below the bridge) 3-9 (headwaters)What's this?
  • Fishing4/6What's this?
  • Horse3What's this?
  • Camp5What's this?
Hike Distance
1 mile Fontana Lake/Campsite #66
4.2 miles Springhouse Branch/Campsite #64
8.8 miles Campsite #61(reservation)
10.2 miles total length
Easy via Lakeshore Drive
Nearest City
Bryson City
Swain County
Distance From
Bryson City, 7.9 miles