A Southern Mountaineer's Nemesis
Marks Knob is the most remote of the 6000 ft peaks in the southeast. There is no trail to the summit, and a mile-long bushwhack is required to get there. This bushwhack involves a lot of pain. The mountain is located deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains and is generally considered the hardest mountain to climb of all the 6ers. Have fun!
There are several approaches to Marks Knob, but none of them are particularly easy...
I'll give directions from certain towns....I'll assume everyone knows how to use MapQuest to get to these...
From the north:
This is the shortest way to get to Marks Knob. Go to Cosby, Tenn. There is a campground off Highway 32.
Hike south on Snake Den Ridge Trail from the campground. This trail is a beast. It switchbacks for 5.3 miles to the ridge that connects with the Appalachian Trail at Yellow Creek Gap.
Follow the AT south for 3.7 miles past Old Black and Mount Guyot. If you're peakbagging you might want to integrate these into the trip. The AT will take you to Tricorner Knob Shelter.
From the shelter, Marks Knob is less that a mile away. Follow the Balsam Mountain Trail east until there is a big curve in the trail to the south. It's pretty obvious. Marks Knob is due south, on the other side of Mount Hardison. From here, the bushwhack begins.
From the east or west:
From Newfound Gap, follow the Appalachian Trail north (or east). From I-40 go south from Davenport Gap (west, actually). Get to Tricorner Knob shelter and go from there.
From the south
For those who enjoy the backcountry and have more time, there are many trails leading from various forest roads and campgrounds, but the fastest and shortest way to Marks Knob is to go from the Cosby Campground.
Go due south over Mount Hardison. Descend to the gap. Go up Marks Knob. Make sure to go past the long, tiresome, false summit. There are some ribbons at the top.
I tried to follow a "trail" around Mount Hardison, but it quickly ran out and led to endless deadfall. The ridge is much better, although still very long and difficult. Be prepared to use most of the day on this bushwhack, it seems to never end. The forest is very thick here, and as of 2004 there was hardly a trail to be found. I would advise to take some other foolhardy people with you. Tell them it will be fun!
You must register with the park to stay in Tricorner Knob Shelter, or any shelter on the AT through the park. You can do this from their website:
Great Smoky Mountains
Tricorner Knob Shelter is really your only option unless you push all the way to Laurel Gap Shelter on the Balsam Mountain Trail. I would suggest to go mid-week to avoid a crowded shelter.
Here's the topo with Tricorner Knob Shelter and the big "U" in the BMT in view:
Marks and Trail
By The Way....
There are plenty of other 6ers you can integrate into a very long Smoky Mountain trek. Buy yourself the park map (get the one that's in FEET, cause the metric one is lame) and be creative.
I wouldn't suggest this hike as a first bushwhack. The remoteness of the peak and the difficulty of the terrain are pretty unforgiving. Try a few of the other 6ers in the park first - Chapman, Old Black, and Guyot are all good warm ups. I'm planning to go back to Marks Knob in a few weeks to take some more detailed pics of the route if I can, and to check on the "trail" conditions. Keep an eye out. Anyone with good pics please add to this page.