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Backpacker Magazine – May 2012

Rip & Go: Bartram Trail - Nantahala National Forest, NC

Climb past a glimmering highland lake to a lofty southern bald.

by: Peter Rives

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(Photo by: Peter Rives)
(Photo by: Peter Rives)

Cameras, GPS, & Gadgets
Electronics built for the backcountry
Do it
Follow in the footsteps of legendary 18th-century explorer William Bartram—linking tranquil hollows and skirting a wild river—on this challenging 21.1-mile, two-night shuttle hike. The yellow-blazed Bartram Trail honors the man who spent four years documenting the Southeast’s wilderness. From the Beechertown trailhead (1), climb .2 mile of switchbacks, then join a forest road to start a 2.9-mile, 1,500-foot climb. Passing views of cloud-trapping gorges, the trail narrows (2) through tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel (blooming late spring) before you traverse the eastern flank of 4,052-foot Rattlesnake Knob (3). Soon, Pierce Creek’s burble signals the first night’s camp (4) at mile 4.3, where dense second-growth provides tethers for a load-lightening tarp (“Key Skill,” next page). Next morning, hike 2.5 miles through rolling forest before turning south (5) to wind along the Nantahala River on 4.7 flat miles with access to swimming and fishing. A six-inch-deep ford (6) across concrete at the base of a 250-foot rockfill dam signals the start of a 400-foot climb past a spillway-fueled waterfall. From here, a 1.5-mile wooded traverse yields the trip’s first glimpses of 1,065-acre Nantahala Lake. At mile 14 (7), the trail follows Wayah Road .6 mile along the lake’s shoreline to the inlet of Winespring Creek (8)—the last reliable water before camp. Turn left to re-enter the rhododendrons and start the 2,300-foot climb over 5.2 miles of McDonald Ridge. At the flat, viewless summit of 5,440-foot Winespring Bald (9), the Bartram Trail merges with the AT. A spring just beyond makes this a welcome, primitive high-country camp. Next day, skirt the northern slopes of Wayah Bald for 1.3 miles, with intermittent views toward the dark ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From 5,342-foot Wayah’s stone summit tower (10), take in views of undulating, hazy blue ridges and peaks. To finish, backtrack 150 yards to the parking area.


Trip Planner
Shuttle car: From Asheville, take I-40 W to US 74 W. In 61 miles, turn left on Wayah Rd., go 19 miles, turn left on Wayah Bald Rd., and park at the summit.
Trailhead: Backtrack 22.8 miles to the Beechertown trailhead.

Shuttle Jude Julius; (828) 736-0086; $85

Gear up Nantahala Outdoor Center, 13077 Highway 74 W, Bryson City; (800) 232-7238; noc.com

Contact (828) 524-6441; fs.usda.gov/nfsnc

Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/1519292

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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Taylor Deyton
Mar 02, 2013

This Trail was a fun 3 day for me, my fiancee and our 2 dogs Riley and Lola the views were amazing and the weather was perfect (October). Day 2 covers 14 miles, if you are following the Rip&Go profile, and most of that stair steps along ridges, the Wayah Cafe along the road just before you enter the woods again is a great place to refill your water the ladies there were amazing, they even brought a pan of fresh water out for our dogs! Thank You! I'd say for those who like to take their time to complete trails this would be more comfortable as a 4 day trip splitting day 2 into 2 equal segments of 7 miles or there about. The Shuttle we took from wayah bald to the trail head was courtesy of Jude's Husband who was very kind and accommodating by allowing our dogs to ride in their car (Honda Fit). All in all I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone who is looking for great views and a good time!

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