Hazel Creek’s headwaters begin at Siler’s Bald, over 4,000 feet above sea level, and the stream flows southwest into Fontana Lake. Like the lake’s other North Shore streams, Hazel Creek is remote and requires either a boat ride or a lengthy hike to get there. Once you arrive, the Hazel Creek Trail follows the stream and allows access to most areas. The first 10 miles of the trail — a former railroad right-of-way — are easy to navigate. However, the northern stretch narrows considerably and includes several water crossings that could become dangerous during and after heavy rains.
What's Special About This Water?
At the trailhead, you’ll find the historic Calhoun House, once owned by Granville Calhoun, the “Squire of Hazel Creek” and an influential resident of Proctor, a town that flourished after the logging boom hit in 1909. Calhoun had financial interests in the region’s copper mining and timber trade, in addition to being a well-respected bear hunter and angler. He also introduced rainbow trout into Hazel Creek.
Most anglers fish the lower-elevation waters. If you’re interested in venturing beyond that, you might camp at one of the five backcountry sites along the trail. Proctor Campsite (#86) is about a half mile from Fontana Lake, while Sawdust Pile (#85) is a little over three miles up the Hazel Creek Trail. Campers may encounter wild hogs, bears, deer, and coyotes. Copperheads, rattlesnakes, and an array of insects and birds also inhabit this desolate area. Be sure to check the weather before heading out, and bring along a friend if you plan on camping. Off-trail, about half a mile east of the Calhoun House, you might come across remnants of the Ritter Lumber Company’s sawmill and the Proctor Cemetery, artifacts from a bygone era when Proctor was a bustling town.
Hazel Creek offers the whole package — wilderness, wildlife, history, and plenty of trout — which makes it one of the most alluring streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).
Best Time to Fish
Hazel Creek is open for fishing year-round. The bug hatches make spring an ideal season for pursuing trout, and terrestrials — especially, beetles, ants, and grasshoppers — should capture the interests of wild rainbows and browns. In the summer, the middle section is best for landing rainbows, while the upper reaches are better for browns and maybe brookies if the water’s still cool enough. The crisp mountain air and scenic backdrop of yellow, orange, and red leaves make autumn the perfect season for seeking brookies and browns, which both spawn in the fall. By winter, with fewer people around, you could cut down on your hiking effort and fish the lower portion of the creek. Maybe you’ll catch some of the husky brown trout skulking around there.
Be sure to book your shuttle trip at the Fontana Village website. If you plan to camp, you must make reservations and obtain permits in advance at the Backcountry Permits website. There, you’ll also find information about trip-planning details, closures and advisories, and things you need to know before you head out to one of the loveliest streams in the Smokies.
Latest Fishing Reports
Technique and Tips
The lower section of Hazel Creek has plenty of open space for casting. Near the headwaters, vegetation crowds the area, so bow-and-arrow and roll casting might be necessary. In all GSMNP streams, fishing is permitted 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after official sunset. Right before dawn and dusk, as well as on days when natural light is limited, break out your streamers. The brown trout and rainbows have been known to hit them.
We’d recommend Sulfurs, Royal Wulff’s, Caddisflies, and Yellow Sallies.
Types of Trips
We guide walk-and-wade trips on Hazel Creek.
- Fontana Village
- Bryson City
All anglers aged 16 or older must have a valid North Carolina or Tennessee state fishing license for Hazel Creek and most other streams in the GSMNP. Both resident and non-resident licenses can be purchased from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
- The quickest way to Hazel Creek is by shuttle from the Fontana Village Marina. This option costs $30 one way and $50 roundtrip. Same-day returns can also be scheduled along with lengthier visits. You can even rent boats if you wish to row the distance. Make reservations in advance by calling Fontana Village Marina at 828-498-2017.
- Another boating option is taking Highway 28 to Cable Cove and launching a watercraft from there.
- From Fontana Dam, it’s a 10-mile hike to Hazel Creek via Lakeshore Trail.