What’s in a name? Well, in the case of this trail, knowing it’s called “The Jumpoff” might scare off some people. The intimidating moniker comes from the 1,000-foot cliff at the very top of the hike. Members of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club supposedly gave the Jump-Off its descriptive name back in the 1940s. It was their in-house term for the eastern edge of Mount Kephart, and as far as we know, nobody has fulfilled its name.
But if you head up this route which starts off at Newfound Gap, the spectacular views alone will be worth the effort. Also, if you should come here during the late spring and early summer, you’ll find wildflowers in abundance along the way.
At a roundtrip distance of 6½ miles and elevation gain of roughly 1,275 feet, it’s not the extended trek that many of the classic Smokies hikes are. The good news is that if you start early enough, you’ll make this trip in daylight with time to spare.
Start at the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and head 13 miles south on Newfound Gap Road. The Jumpoff trailhead starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot. Many people will be here to hike the Appalachian Trail, no matter what time of year it is.
But just be patient as you weave your way through the crowds.
Once you’re roughly two miles from the trailhead, you’ll find fewer people around. Before then you’ll be climbing quickly, which is probably what separates the casual visitors from the real hikers.
Amazing views along the ridgeline
Around two-thirds of a mile in, you’ll arrive at an overlook of the North Carolina Smoky Mountains, which is just the first in a series of great vistas. The next one comes at 1.7 miles, before the Sweat Heifer Creek trail junction. Here Mt. LeConte and Myrtle Point loom off in the distance.
Once the ascent level some and over the next mile or so, the trail becomes noticeably narrower and the air thinner. The elevation here is about 6,000 feet, and according to one site it almost looks like you’re “walking along the ‘spine’ of the Appalachian Mountains” and almost see forever on either side of the ridge. Shortly after reaching this part (around mile 2.7), you’ll arrive at the junction for the Boulevard Trail. Take the left fork that leads to the Jumpoff spur, just a tenth of a mile down. The final half-mile brings you the famous cliff, with views of the Charlie’s Bunion and Mt. Guyot.
A bonus hike to Charlie’s Bunion
If you want to extend your hiking journey, do a “two-fer” to another scenic outcropping, also named by the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and one of its members. Instead of turning right at the Boulevard Trail’s intersection and heading back to Newfound Gap, head left in the other direction for 1.3 miles to the spur leading to Charlie’s Bunion. You’ll find an equally breathtaking view here – just be prepared to add another 2.6 miles to your hiking.
Whether you just do the Jumpoff or add on Charlie’s Bunion, you’re sure to take some share-worthy pictures on your hike.