Charlies Bunion, Newfound Gap Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Charlies Bunion - 7.8 miles

Newfound Gap Trailhead

Autumn panoramas from Charlies Bunion

Autumn panoramas from Charlies Bunion

Round-Trip Length: 7.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,054' - 5,565' (6,014' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +511' net elevation gain (+1,625' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Charlies Bunion - 7.8 Miles Round-Trip

Charlies Bunion (5,565') is located 3.9 miles from Newfound Gap along the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 'Bunion', widely considered one of the best viewpoints in all the Smokies, is a massive rock promontory surrounded by 1,000'+ vertical drops on three sides.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The outcrop formed in 1925 after a fire and subsequent rains stripped the rock of its tree cover and organic material, never to replenish. Visitors will enjoy high-country ecotones and exhilarating vistas on the hike to Charlies Bunion:

The AT rises over Newfound Gap along the North Carolina - Tennessee border on a rocky, rooted path. Note the absence of hardwoods as you progress through this high-elevation pine-oak forest. The trail crests at 1.5 miles and drops to the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail split (1.65 miles : 5,815').

Grades moderate past 2.0 miles and cross 6,000' (2.2 miles) through columns of red spruce and fraser fir to the Boulevard Trail split, and the route's highest point (2.65 miles : 6,014').

The AT continues NE to Icewater Spring Backcountry Shelter (2.9 miles : 5,954') and Icewater Spring, which spills from a pipe directly on the trail (2.95 miles : 5,929'). The shelter is large and well built, but its location on the AT and proximity to Newfound Gap mean it's often crowded.

The trail drops steeply and moderates once again past 3.5 miles on exposed ridges to the spur for Charlie's Bunion (3.85 miles : 5,530'). The spur climbs ruggedly out onto the exposed rock promontory (3.9 miles : 5,565') with wide ranging panoramas to the north and east.

Lighting is generally best late afternoon, but morning travelers will enjoy terrific illuminations of Mount Le Conte (6,593') to the west, the Park's third highest peak.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N35 36.659 W83 25.480 — 0.0 miles : Newfound Gap Trailhead
  • N35 36.840 W83 25.121 — .5 miles : Rocky, rooted climb on the Appalachian Trail
  • N35 37.064 W83 24.742 — 1.0 miles : High, thin ridge with partial views
  • N35 37.273 W83 24.231 — 1.65 miles : Sweat Heifer Creek Trail split
  • N35 37.324  W83 23.858 — 2.0 miles : Moderate grades on variously rocky trail
  • N35 37.705 W83 23.438 — 2.65 miles : Boulevard Trail split
  • N35 37.800  W83 23.193 — 2.9 miles : Icewater Backcountry Shelter
  • N35 37.817  W83 23.187 — 2.95 miles : Icewater Spring
  • N35 37.920  W83 23.182 — 3.1 miles : Undulating travel on high, open ridges
  • N35 38.209 W83 22.605 — 3.85 miles : Charlies Bunion access spur

Worth Noting

  • Exercise caution scrambling about Charlies Bunion. There's little room for error on these drop offs. Keep a safe distance from cliff edges. Not recommended for families, or those uncomfortable with heights. Leave exposed areas before storms approach, and avoid scrambling on wet rock.

  • Origin: "Charlies Bunion got its name in 1929 when Swain County native Charlie Conner was hiking with outdoorsman Horace Kephart, photographer George Masa, and others along the high divide. When they paused for a rest on the rocks, Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion or two that rivaled the surrounding stones. Eying Conner's feet, Kephart remarked, 'Charlie, I'm going to get this place put on a government map for you.' And he did". (Smoky Mountain news - Wednesday, 27 July 2011 - George Ellison)

  • Charlies Bunion was previously known as Fodderstack.

Camping and Backpacking Information

The Icewater Spring Shelter is located 2.9 miles from Newfound Gap Trailhead on the Appalachian Trail.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.

Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here:

Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.

Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.

General Backcountry Regulations

1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.

2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.

3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.

4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.

5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.

6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.

7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.

8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.

9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.

10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.

11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.

12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.

13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.

14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.

15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.

16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.

17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park

18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.

  • The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.

  • A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.

  • Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.

  • Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.

  • Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.

Rules and Regulations

  • There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  • Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.

  • Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.

Directions to Trailhead

The Newfound Gap Trailhead is located 12.7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trailhead is located on the east side of the road.

Contact Information

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Visitor Information - Recorded Message

Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)

Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)

Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)

Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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