Hiking the Citico-Joyce Kilmer Wilderness.

Citico Creek and Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness Areas, Cherokee National Forest


Citico is on the eastern boundary of Tennessee. Located just north of State Hwy. 165, it is within 100 miles of Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tellico Plains is the closest town at 20 miles away.

Getting There:
From Knoxville drive south on I-75 to State Hwy. 68. From Chattanooga drive north on I-75 to the same intersection. Turn east toward Madisonville and Tellico Plains. From Tellico Plains take State Highway 165, the Cherohala Skyway, to the southwestern corner of the wilderness, at Warden Fields on Citico Creek (easiest access), or turn at Double Camp and drive to Farr Gap, to hike into the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness (stream crossings), or over Little and Big Foddestack to Citico Wilderness (Nice Ridge top hike). The Cherohala Skyway skirts the southern edge of the wilderness and provides access to three major trailheads. You can access it from Grassy Gap and Rattlesnake Rock (moderate routes). And at the TN/NC State Line and hike through Jeffries Hell, or over Stratton Bald to Naked Ground through Slickrock, or hike over Stratton Bald to the Hangover to Big Fat Gap through the Slickrock Wilderness. The Stratton Bald – Hangover route is the most scenic ridge top route to access the Joyce Kilmer–Slickrock Wilderness. The hike from the State line over Stratton Bald to the Hangover and through Slickrock over Big Fodderstack back to the Citico Wilderness is good 3-day hike; portions are difficult, not for the inexperienced.

Seasonal Information:
Mid-April to mid-October is the best time to go. Summer ranges are 70 to 80 degrees F. Summer evenings in the mountains can be cool. Fall temperatures are pleasant in the 70s, with evening lows that may reach 40 degrees F.

Temperatures drop sharply by November and freezing weather often continues until mid-April. Winters average 30 to 40 degrees F. Rain is most likely in late winter and spring, from February to May.

Black bear, Russian boar, deer, turkey, grouse, squirrel, and raccoon are the most common species.

In the water, you will find brook, rainbow, and brown trout, small mouth and largemouth bass, and blue catfish.

Bees and ticks are usually only a minor problem but may be present.

Plant Life:
Canopied by the large green leaves and splendid blossoms of rosebay rhododendron, paths will lead you through stands of hemlock and yellow buckeye.

Spring wildflowers are best from early April to mid-June. Leaf change typically occurs from late September into October.

Camping is primitive in the wilderness. Be warned: The rugged terrain affords few obvious campsites, and some sections of trail run for long stretches without a decent place to pitch the smallest of tents.

Outside the wilderness, there are nine developed campgrounds in the Tellico Ranger District. Most of these are open seasonally and provide tables, water, and toilets. Indian Boundary and Double Camp are closest pay sites. Indian Boundary accepts reservations through Biospherics, Inc. at (800) 280-CAMP. The closest free site is at warden’s Field on Citico Creek, along the wilderness’s western boundary.

The Young Branch Horse Camp provides accommodations for up to five nights on Citico Creek in the Tellico Ranger District. Reservations are required. Call for current fees.

Motor vehicles are prohibited in the wilderness. Park at the trailheads.

Permits aren't required and registration is voluntary.


  • There is a maximum of 10 people per group.
  • Camping is limited to 14 days at any one site.
  • Motor vehicles and bicycles are prohibited in the wilderness.


  • Several trails cross streams, which can be treacherous. There are slippery rocks and high waters during spring or after heavy rains, and few bridges.
  • Storm damage has left many trees scattered in the area. Deadfalls sometimes block the way, and thoroughfares are often narrow and partially overgrown with weeds and colorful wildflowers.
  • Cutbark blazes are sparse and painted blazes nearly nonexistent.

Leave No Trace:
The forest service asks visitors to use camp stoves.

All Leave No Trace guidelines apply.

The best map is the combined "Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and Citico Creek Wilderness" map provided by the Forest Service. The general map of the Cherokee National Forest is also useful. Both can be obtained for a small fee by writing the USFS at the above address.

Other Trip Options:

  • Citico Creek Wilderness Area adjoins North Carolina's Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Creek Wilderness.
  • It is also within 100 miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Indian Boundary Recreation Area is within 10 miles.


Contact Information:

Cherokee National Forest
Tellico Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
250 Ranger Station Road
Tellico Plains, TN 37385
(423) 253-2520

The Tellico Plains Mountain Press