Hiking to the Smoke Hole

By Bear Lake Staff / December 3, 2014

Opening of the mystical smoke hole.  Can you see the Keepers of the Eternal Flame?! Opening of the mystical smoke hole. Can you see the Keepers of the Eternal Flame?!

Blog by April Hicks, our upcoming Marketing Director at Bear Lake Reserve

This November has been a beautiful one at Bear Lake Reserve.  With highs of 50 and 60 degrees, how could I not go hiking with Joey and the McLaughlin family to the historic Smoke Hole the day before Thanksgiving?!

For the past couple of months, I have been actively learning about the history of Bear Lake Reserve, trampling through the forest and reminded of my childhood days, spent eating violets like fairies and looking for Lady Slippers.  Brandon and Joey have been truly instrumental in my learning about the property, but I have to be honest…  I wasn’t sure that there really even was a smoke hole.

Sure…T. Walter Middleton references the mystic Smoke Hole in his book about the region, Qualla.  But reading about the Smoke Hole and actually finding it are two totally different experiences!

Kelsey McLaughlin kneels near the opening of the historic Smoke Hole at Bear Lake Reserve. Kelsey McLaughlin kneels near the opening of the historic Smoke Hole at Bear Lake Reserve.

Smoke Holes develop in rock formations over years of mineral interaction from mountain streams.  The temperature in the Smoke Hole stays constant, so in the winter, we feel a warm, humid air pushing out the cave opening where the air in the summer felt cool.

While I can provide you with general directions to the Smoke Hole, I strongly advise hiking with a guide or a buddy who has seen it before. If you drive past Mossycup Court maybe a quarter of a mile, there is a clearing on the left side of the road large enough to park your car on an incline. That is the adventurous “trail head” to the Smoke Hole.  From this point, walk straight up and ahead until the woods look less clear, forcing you to turn left.  Continue hiking in this direction until you begin to see a silt fence.  Follow the silt fence through the woods until you come to a large rock face.  If you are facing the right rock face, the Smoke Hole is directly behind you.

The McLaughlin Family - Ready for any adventure!  General Manager  Joey Laughridge takes a photo while the McLaughlin family poses by the Smoke Hole. The McLaughlin Family – Ready for any adventure!
General Manager Joey Laughridge takes a photo while the McLaughlin family poses by the Smoke Hole.

This Smoke Hole is believed to be a part of a cavern system with connecting tunnels and possibly other exit points.  Bear Lake Reserve sent a spelunker in to explore the system in 2012.  His rope ended at around 40 feet, but he anticipates that the trail has multiple side tunnels and shared that the Smoke Hole, once considered the home of the Keepers of the Eternal Flame in Cherokee lore, is now a habitat for mountain woodland creatures including several species of bats.

This is definitely an adventure hike, and one that I would highly recommend!  Be sure to get in touch with Joey, Brandon, or the McLaughlin’s when you’re ready for a moderate hike to a natural wonder!

"Don't fall in, Justin!" - We laugh as Mr. McLaughlin makes his way as close to the inside of the Smoke Hole as he can get! “Don’t fall in, Justin!” – We laugh as Mr. McLaughlin makes his way as close to the inside of the Smoke Hole as he can get!

 

See the video footage, taken by Owen Schultz, Ridgeline Property Management, Inc.!

For a map of the adventure and maintained trails at Bear Lake Reserve, click here.

To contact Joey  or Brandon to schedule your expedition, click here.

To schedule your visit to Bear Lake Reserve, click here.

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