Chimney Tops

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Chimney Tops
Chimney Tops, looking south from Newfound Gap Road (US Route 441).
Highest point
Elevation4,724 ft (1,440 m) NAVD 88
Prominence120 ft (37 m)[1]
Coordinatesregion:US-TN scale:100000 source:NPS 35°37′50″N 83°28′42″W / 35.630653°N 83.478226°W / 35.630653; -83.478226Coordinates: region:US-TN scale:100000 source:NPS 35°37′50″N 83°28′42″W / 35.630653°N 83.478226°W / 35.630653; -83.478226[2]
LocationSevier County, Tennessee
Parent rangeGreat Smoky Mountains
Topo mapNPS "Mount Le Conte" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
Easiest routeChimney Tops Trail, short climb

Chimney Tops is a mountain in the central Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. It is 4,724 feet (1,440 m) above sea level.[3] Chimney Tops is a double-capstone knob on the eastern slope of the Sugarland Mountain massif, which stretches north-south across the north-central section of the Smokies. Mount Le Conte resides east of Chimney Tops and Mt. Mingus southeast of Chimney Tops. Thus, while the view from the summit is 360 degrees, Chimney Tops is practically "walled in" on three sides.


Chimney Tops is one of the few instances of a bare rock summit in the Smokies.[4] The rock atop the mountain has been exposed to natural weathering. The bedrock is mostly Anakeesta Formation metamorphic rock, especially slate, phyllite, and metasiltstone.[5] It was formed 200 million years ago when the North American and African plates collided during the Appalachian orogeny.[6]


The lower capstone of Chimney Tops, looking north from the higher capstone.

The Cherokee name for Chimney Tops is Duniskwalgunyi, or "forked antler", referring to its resemblance to the deer antlers.[7] In the Cherokee legend "Aganunitsi and the Uktena", the captured medicine man, Aganunitsi, to free himself, searches remote parts of the Smokies to find the giant reptile, the Uktena, and seize an amulet from its forehead. In his quest, Aganunitsi searches distant gaps and peaks in the Smokies before going to Duniskwalgunyi, the Gap of the Forked Antler, and to the lake of Atagahi, and at each found monstrous reptiles."[8]

Folded metamorphic rock characterizes the capstones of Chimney Tops.

The Road Prong Trail, which follows the stream of the same name at the base of Chimney Tops, is one of the oldest trails in the Smokies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the ancient path was known commonly as the Indian Gap Trail. In 1832, the Oconaluftee Turnpike was constructed between Indian Gap and Smokemont. The road was expanded during the Civil War by Cherokee leader Col. Will Thomas, running parallel to the modern trail.[9]

The mountain's current name was probably given to it by residents of the Sugarlands, a valley to the north of the mountain that was home to a small Appalachian community before the national park was formed. Before the Sugarlands was reforested, Chimney Tops was clearly visible from most of the valley. Local legend even suggested that the top of the mountain was covered in soot.[10]


Sugarland Mountain, looking northwest from the summit of Chimney Tops.

A common route to closely see the peaks is the Chimney Tops Trail, which can be accessed about 6.9 miles southeast of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road. Another route follows the Appalachian Trail west from Newfound Gap to the Road Prong Trail. The Road Prong Trail, following the river at the base of the mountain, connects the Appalachian Trail with the Chimney Tops Trail. This route is twice as long as the route from the Chimney Tops parking lot.

From the summit, Mount Le Conte and Mount Kephart can be seen in the east, Sugarland Mountain in the west, and the Sugarlands valley in the north. A severe fire in late 2016 led to closure of many trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, including in the Chimney Tops area. The trail reopened in October 2017, with a new observation area that offers a place to view both of the bare rock points of the summit. However, the extreme heat of the fires resulted in accelerated weathering and potential mass wasting of the exposed rock, and therefore access to the summit is no longer permitted for safety reasons.[11]


  1. ^ "Chimney Tops, Tennessee".
  2. ^ "Chimney Tops". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  3. ^ "Mt Le Conte Quadrangle, Great Smoky Mountains 7.5 minute 1:24,000-scale series Topographic Maps" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2013-12-08.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Brewer, Carson (1993). Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Portland, Ore: Graphic Arts Center Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 1-55868-126-4.
  5. ^ Moore, Harry (1988). A Roadside Guide to the Geology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. pp. 7, 107. ISBN 0-87049-558-5.
  6. ^ Moore, Harry (1988). pp. 26–27.
  7. ^ Mooney, James (1972). Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee. Nashville: Charles Elder. p. 516..
  8. ^ Mooney, James (1972) p. 299.
  9. ^ Strutin, Michael (2003). History Hikes of the Smokies. Gatlinburg: Great Smoky Mountains Association. pp. 322–324. ISBN 0-937207-40-3.
  10. ^ Frome, Michael (1994). Strangers In High Places: The Story of the Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. p. introduction.
  11. ^ Temporary Road and Facilities Closures, National Park Service website. Accessed: 16 March 2017.

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