Looking for a family friendly hike in the Great Smoky Mountains? The Metcalf Bottoms Trail to Little Greenbrier School is a great family hike that is easily accessible and full of rich history!
Read on to learn more about this unique hike and what to expect before you head that way!
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Metcalf Bottoms Trail Information
- Round Trip Length: 1.2 miles
- Trail Location: Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
- Directions: Metcalf Bottoms Trail Trailhead
- Trail Features: Historic school house, foot bridges
- Round Trip Hours: 1 hour (or less)
- Difficulty: Easy
A round trip hike to and from the Little Greenbrier School usually takes us about 45 minutes – 1 hour. We usually allot about 15-20 minutes for exploring the schoolhouse and surrounding area.
Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
Any time you head to a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to do a little research beforehand so you are well prepared! Over the years we have collected several pocket guides to help us familiarize ourselves with the Great Smoky Mountains a little better.
Here are a few of our go-to guides that we recommend for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains:
How Do I Get to Little Greenbrier School?
The easiest way to locate the trailhead for the Little Greenbrier School is to drive to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and park there.
Coming from the Sugarlands, the picnic area is about 9.5 miles on Little River Road and then will take a right onto Wear Cove Gap Rd.
From the Townsend Wye, it is about 7.8 miles on Little River Road and from there you would take a left into the picnic area.
Another option if you are in or near the Wears Valley area is to take the “back way” through Line Springs (Lyon Springs) Road. Turn off of Wears Valley Road onto Line Springs Road where the National Park Market is and follow that road all the way to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area!
History of the Little Greenbrier Area
The Little Greenbrier Community is most commonly known for Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, Little Greenbrier School house and the Walker Sisters Place.
When the Great Smoky Mountains became a National Park, most families had to leave their mountain homes. The Walker Sisters were an exception and had a lifetime lease on their property which allowed them to continue living in the Smoky Mountains.
To see the Walker Sisters Place you can continue on from the schoolhouse on the Little Brier Gap Trail which is about 1.3 miles (2.6 miles roundtrip).
History of the Little Greenbrier School
The Little Greenbrier School was built in 1882 and served as a school and a church for the residents of the Little Greenbrier area and the surrounding mountain communities until about 1936.
The Little Greenbrier residents were told that the government would provide funding for a teacher for the area if they would build a schoolhouse. So many of the residents came together and “raised” the schoolhouse in 1882.
Among these residents were Gilbert Abbott who donated the land, Ephraim Ogle who provided the logs (which were hauled to the site by oxen teams) and John Walker (father of the Walker Sisters). Many other residents of the area helped as well.
In the Fall of 1882, the school held its first classes. Richard Perryman was one of 39 teachers that would teach in the Little Greenbrier School.
It was a one room schoolhouse which means that all ages and grades were taught in the same room. Students came from many miles to be able to attend the Little Greenbrier School.
The Little Greenbrier School is also on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The school still contains an old blackboard and desks which gives you a little peek into what it was like in those days.
Our family used to have picnics at Metcalf Bottoms almost every Sunday in the summer when I was growing up. So this was a trail that we would hike very regularly.
My mom’s side of the family all lived and grew up in the Smoky Mountains. The tales I heard over the years continue to fascinate me and come to life a little more every time we visit the mountains.
I remember my Great-Grandma telling about the huge apples that the Walker family grew in that area. She said they were the best apples she ever had! My Great-Grandma also told stories about stopping by to visit the Walker Sisters from time to time. Here is a picture of her visiting with one of the sisters.
The Little Greenbrier area is full of rich history and will always be a favorite to take our kids to visit as well!
School Days at Little Greenbrier School
Sometimes in the Fall season, the National Park Service has been known to host “School Days at Little Greenbrier” where you can go back and see what it was like to live in a mountain community during that time.
Be sure to check the nps.gov website for upcoming dates and times! It is a great educational experience for all ages!
Hiking to Little Greenbrier School
The hike to the Little Greenbrier School is a popular hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is the only school house still standing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which makes it a unique hike in and of itself.
Locating the Metcalf Bottoms Trailhead
From the parking lot of Metcalf Bottoms, you will want to look for a sign near the bridge on Wear Cove Gap Road, right next to the road.
Once you locate the sign, you will want to head on across the bridge.
Then you will take a right at the gated area to locate the Metcalf Bottoms Trailhead sign.
From here, it should be easy sailing (well, with a few up and down hills along the way…) to Little Greenbrier School!
On the Metcalf Bottoms Trail
The first part of the trail is relatively flat. As you continue a short distance, you will see a sign directing you to the left to start ascending up the hill.
Just a short distance into the hike, keep an eye out on the left for an old homesite. There is a rock wall and pathway that is still there from the Little Greenbrier Community.
As you continue to make your way up the hill, you will see a gated area with a “Trail” sign that is pointing to the right.
Although downhill, the trail has plenty of roots that are exposed on the trail making it a little more treacherous. Just be sure to watch your step!
The trail will wind down around the river and through some beautiful canopies of trees and then will lead you to a footbridge!
Just a little bit further on some more flat terrain…
And then as you make the last turn, you will see the final footbridge where you can take in your first view of the Little Greenbrier School.
At Little Greenbrier School
Once there, take plenty of time to explore the school house. Be sure to go inside and sit at the benches to imagine what life was like to be a student in the Little Greenbrier School.
Our kids always loved playing school in there.
Across from the school house is also a little cemetery. The school was also used as a church building for many years, so many of the congregants and Little Greenbrier residents are buried there. Without knowing that little fact, it would definitely appear to be an odd place for a cemetery.
Once you have had plenty of time to explore, you can head on back to Metcalf Bottoms the same way you came.
Or if you did want to add some extra mileage to your hike, consider hiking on to the Walker Sisters Place which is 1.3 miles (2.6 miles roundtrip).
A Few Things To Consider
- Be sure to take a picnic lunch to enjoy before or after your hike at the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. Conveniently located next to the trailhead, you will also find easy to access restrooms and water refill stations.
- Watch your step and take your time as there are lots of roots on the trail. And leave the stroller in the car- this is definitely not a stroller friendly trail.
The Metcalf Bottoms Trail to Little Greenbrier School is a great family friendly hike that all ages will enjoy! Take a step back in time and check it out the next time you are in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Have you been to the Little Greenbrier School before? What is your favorite part of this hike?
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