The trail to The Jump Off is begins at the Newfound Gap overlook. Visitors enjoy a fantastic view even from the parking lot level. This is also home to the Rockefeller Memorial where President Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 1940. The trailhead is located just to the right of the base of the large stone monument. The elevation at the overlook is 5,046’. This is an out and back hike that covers 6.2 miles in total with a 1,079’ elevation gain peaking at 6,217’, and terminating at The Jump Off at 6,133’. This is an intermediate level trail and begins with some of the steepest terrain.
Your adventure begins by ascending a staircase-like path of boulders and logs. In the colder months trekking poles are very useful because there can be a significant amount of ice on this portion of the trail. After the first .75 miles the trail smooths out and is easier to traverse. However, you will still be steadily climbing up the slope so take advantage of the breaks in the trees to admire the view and catch your breath. The first intersection you encounter will be the Sweat Heifer Trail Junction. This is a fantastic place to pause and pose for a picture with the Appalachian Trail sign. To go directly on to The Jump Off stay straight at this intersection. If you would like to relax for a moment turn right and follow the path a short distance to a wide clearing. On a cool day this is a good spot to warm up in the sun. From Sweat Heifer Trail Junction continue on another .7 miles to Boulevard Junction then keep left. There is a big shift in the terrain here as the incline increases and you find yourself back on a very rocky footpath. At this point you are very close to the trail marker for The Jump Off. Once you reach the marker you will be directed to take a path branching off to the right. This is a steep walk, winding through trees, and along the ridge as you make your way to the summit of Mt. Kephart. You will then begin descending for a short distance, and finally you arrive at The Jump Off.
Now it is time sit, have a snack, rehydrate, and appreciate the view. This is also a good opportunity to put on an extra layer of clothing. Temperatures can be 10 or more degrees cooler due to the wind and elevation change. On a clear day you are able to see for miles in to the distance. You will definitely want to get your camera out here to capture the beautiful scene. Whenever you are ready begin your descent, retracing your steps all the way back along the path. Since you are traveling downhill, your return trip will be much less strenuous and faster than the ascent. Once you reach the parking lot walk to the top of the monument for a final fantastic view, take advantage of the clean facilities with running water, and then hop in your car to your next Smoky Mountain adventure.