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We know you love finding hidden gems in the Smoky Mountains, like the House of the Fairies and the Pearl Harbor Tree, and we have one more for you to find the next time you visit! Hidden in the national park are remains of an old steam engine from a wreck that happened years ago. We have all the details on the old steam engine in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and where you can find it.
About the Old Steam Engine
You might be wondering, “What is an old steam engine doing in the Smoky Mountains?” It was a Nichols and Shepard self-propelled, steam-powered machine, also known as a traction engine. The machine was used to power a lumber saw back in the 1920s to saw wood for the Greenbrier School. During its return trip, the driver couldn’t execute a switchback, and the engine rolled down the mountainside and into the creek below. The steam engine still sits in the same spot of the creek today. The engine sits in Injun Creek, which actually got its name from the steam engine. The creek is called “Injun” Creek because of a mapmaker who misspelled the word “engine.”
Where is the Steam Engine in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Now that you know a bit about the history behind the steam engine in the Smoky Mountains, we bet you can’t wait to go find it for yourselves! The old steam engine can be found along the Grapeyard Ridge Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike to the steam engine and back is about 5.8 miles. At 2.85 miles, you’ll reach the top of an incline. Once you make your way down the hill, you’ll see the old wreck and steam engine.
To get to the Grapeyard Ridge Trail, you’ll turn to travel eastbound on Hwy 321 at Traffic Light 3 in Gatlinburg. After driving about 6 miles, turn right into Greenbrier. From the highway, it’s a 3 mile drive to the trailhead. You’ll find a small parking area on the side of the road.
About Grapeyard Ridge Trail
Grapeyard Ridge Trail has a roundtrip distance of 5.8 miles. It’s considered a relatively moderate trail, so you don’t have to worry about it being too challenging! However, there are a couple inclines along the hike. From the trailhead, the trail gains about 270 feet in elevation in only two-thirds of a mile before you’ll begin a small descent to Rhododendron Creek. You’ll want to be sure to wear waterproof shoes for this hike, because the trail crosses Rhododendron Creek a total of 5 times on the way to the steam engine. If you’re hoping not to get your feet wet, the summer and fall are the best times to do this hike when high water due to rainfall isn’t as big of an issue. Along the hike, you’ll pass several old homestead sites before climbing the ridge to James Gap. The trail passes through long rhododendron tunnels, and once you reach the top, you’ll make a short descent to Injun Creek, where you’ll see the steam engine. The steam engine is the turnaround point for this hike.
Other Hidden Gems in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Are you hoping to find other hidden gems when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? We can help! We know all about the secret spots in the Smokies and the hidden gems that you’ll love finding when you visit. To learn more, read our blog, “5 Hidden Gems to Uncover in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”