View Full Version : Loop hike in Nantahala area

2004-11-22, 12:55
Wow! Just finished a loop hike using the Bartram and App. Trail through the Nanatahala gorge (a little over 50 miles total loop.) Beautiful trip, but some of that trail was more suited to billy goats than backpackers. The trails were in good shape considering all the rain from the hurricanes. Left going north on AT out of the NOC to the top of Cheoah Bald. Most of the leaves were down, so good views were all around. Excellent visablity from top in all directions, to the Smokies, and back toward Rabun Bald in GA. (about 70 miles or so) The Bartram trail back down to the river follows a creek with numerous crossings, but at good locations - no wet feet here. The trail is extremely steep in many locations though. At one point desending the ridge I had to turn sideways and shuffle down, even with my poles. The leaves made it kind of treacherous.

The rest of the loop to Wayah bald and back to the NOC was typical NC trail hiking, with a few road walks on the Bartram trail part. The Bartram trail seems to be little used, but is well marked and maintained. This trip allowed me to finish all sections except the trail from Wayah bald back down into Franklin. Met a few SOBO's on the AT leg, but they are much too fast for the turtleman, especially with so many miles behind them and heading for the conclusion of their trip.

I wouldn't reccommend this route as a routine trip and probably wouldn't redo it as a long hike, but the Cheoah bald part would be good with a lighter, weekend gear load. Just be prepared for 45 degree trail sections. This might be a good workout for folks heading out west too.

sand crab
2004-11-23, 01:33
Turtleman, thanks for the trip report. I am always looking for good loop hikes (makes logistics so much easier). If I were to do the trip, would you recommend the same route or would it be better to do it in reverse? How about parking arrangements? Any suggestions?

SGT Rock
2004-11-23, 08:53
Great idea for a trip.

2004-11-23, 14:47
I would definitely do it in the same direction I took (North from NOC, then loop back on Bartram Trail to Wayah Bald). The Bartram trail has an extremely steep .9 miles from the river to the ridgeline it follows up to the top of Cheoah Bald. I'm talking 45 degree slopes on switchbacks. This was the roughest part of the trail. Also, it seems to be easier to come out into road areas traveling south. The trailhead around Nantahala lake can be confusing heading north because you have to go down a 'private' drive near a store before you actually hit the trail.

Logistically, I've pretty much always been a solo hiker, so I've always searched for loop hikes with a minimum of backtracking. I usually also plan for a five to seven day trip. I'm a slow careful hiker (hence my turtleman name), plus I usually hike in Novemeber to Jan. to maximize the viewing through the trees. I parked in the NOC rafting parking lot near their 'buses' because it was a semi-sheltered area with people around. There weren't many other cars, as the rafting season has basically closed down, so I figured they wouldn't have a problem with me parking there.

I probably need to check the gear to weight ratio forum. I usually carry 40+ pounds with food and water, which was too much weight for this route IMO. Next time I think I'll head to Cumberland Island where it's flat. :biggrin:

2004-11-30, 09:55
Great trip report!

For a lighter hike, I always enjoyed hiking the AT and side trails in the Standing Indian Basin (off Old US 64, not far north of the Georgia border). There is enough of a loop in the AT, and there are enough side trails criss-crossing the basin, that there are plenty of combinations that can be hiked.

(Unless you really want a tough hike, though, I would not recommend hiking UP the Lower Ridge Trail from the Standing Indian Campground -- it's very doable, but it's a hump-buster.)