The hike to Charlie's Bunion, a rock outcropping that is filled with beautiful panoramic views, starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you are looking for a traditional Great Smoky Mountain National Park hike that is less crowded than many of the most popular hikes, then this is the perfect trail. It contains stunning panoramas, old-growth forest, wildlife (be on the lookout for bears), and beautiful fields of wildflowers during the spring and early summer months. This is a trail well worth doing on any visit to the Smoky Mountains.
The hike travels along the Appalachian Trail for about 4 miles until reaching Charlie's Bunion. It requires a steady uphill climb for the first 2 miles and slightly evens out after the halfway point. The uphill trek is very worthwhile. The next 2 miles of the hike traverse along the spine of the mountain, which has grand views of Tennessee to the east and North Carolina to the west.
Approximately 2.7 miles into the hike a spur trail toward Mount LeConte appears. Taking the fork to the right will keep you on track for Charlie's Bunion. A quarter mile past this trail spur is the Icewater Spring Shelter. The aptly named shelter contains a water source from a natural spring, but keep in mind that this water should be treated and purified before consuming. After 3.9 miles of hiking, another short spur in the trail appears. Stay left to reach the destination.
Charlie's Bunion received its name when two hikers hiked to the rock outcropping, Charlie Conner and Horace Kephart, who were early proponents of creating Great Smoky Mountain National Park. As Charlie sat on the rocks, he removed his boots and socks to reveal a bunion on his foot that resembled the rocks they were sitting on. Horace told Charlie, "One day, I'm going to get this place put on a government map for you."
The Newfound Gap parking lot is often very crowded because of the popularity of the Newfound Gap Overlook, which provides views of both the Tennessee and North Carolina regions of the mountains. However, the congestion of the parking lot does not correlate with the congestion of the hike to Charlie's Bunion, which typically contains scarce crowds of hikers.