Editor's note: While much is known and obvious to national park visitors, there are somethings that are not well-known and often remain secret unless you either stumble upon them or learn of them from a local. Such just might be the case with the Mayna Avent cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. William Britten, a photographer who lives on the edge of the national park, sheds some light on the cabin's history and how you can see it in this short post about a hike to the cabin.
This is a short, sweet hike with a special and nearly secret destination.
Jakes Creek Trailhead is the starting point, which is found by turning left just before entering the Elkmont Campground. Go on past the first parking area for the Little River Trail, to the new parking area near the old Elkmont cabins.
Walk up the road to find the Jakes Creek Trail sign. Continue on Jakes Creek Trail, passing the Cucumber Gap Trail at .3 miles, also passing the Meigs Mountain Trail at .4 miles. Go another quarter mile or so and watch carefully for the wooden steps leading to the right and down the hill toward Jakes Creek.
No sign will indicate the trail to this hidden Smoky Mountain gem. The trail continues down to a footbridge crossing the creek, and just up a short incline the cabin comes into view.
Mayna Avent was a Tennessee artist, living from 1868 to 1959. She used the cabin as her summer studio from the 1920s to the 1940s. The cabin was originally built sometime around 1850 and was purchased in 1918 by the Avent family. Mayna's son Jim cut the windows in the mid-1920s to make the cabin more suitable as an artist's studio.
The national park took ownership of the cabin in 1932, but the Avent family was given a lifetime lease, and they continued to use the cabin until 1992. Today the cabin rests peacefully on the mountainside, entertaining the occasional Smoky Mountain hiker. There is a guest book to sign, and a photo album of the cabin's previous life as the home of an artist.
Standing on the porch, looking out over the silent mountains, it's hard to imagine that the cabin once stood on the outskirts of a bustling Elkmont community that was replaced by the current campground.