Asheville, NC: Bartram Trail (Nantahala Gorge to Wayah Bald)

Climb past a glimmering highland lake to a lofty southern bald.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Climb past a glimmering highland lake to a lofty southern bald.

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, climb .2 mile of switchbacks, then joina forest road to start a 2.9-mile, 1,500-foot climb. Passing views of cloud-trapping gorges, the trail narrows through tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel (blooming late spring) before you traverse the eastern flank of 4,052-foot Rattlesnake Knob. Soon, Pierce Creek’s burble signals the first night’s camp at mile 4.3, where dense second-growth provides tethers for a load-lightening tarp.

Next morning, hike 2.5 miles through rolling forest before turning south to wind along the Nantahala River on 4.7 flat miles with access to swimming and fishing. A six-inch- deep ford 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, the trail follows Wayah Road .6 mile along the lake’s shoreline to the inlet of Winespring Creek—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, 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, take in views of undulating, hazy blue ridges and peaks. To finish, backtrack 150 yards to the parking area.

-Text and mapping by Peter Rives

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 34.0

Waypoints

BAR001

Location: 35.272112, -83.678957

From the Beechertown trailhead, climb .2 mile of switchbacks, then join a forest road to start a 2.9-mile, 1,500-foot climb.

BAR002

Location: 35.267168, -83.679167

Surge Tower. Passing views of cloud-trapping gorges, the trail narrows through tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel (blooming late spring).

BAR003

Location: 35.262965, -83.678051

Spring

BAR004

Location: 35.255469, -83.677112

Traverse the eastern flank of 4,052-foot Rattlesnake Knob.

BAR005

Location: 35.24674, -83.680506

Trail Intersection. Keep left.

BAR006

Location: 35.24611, -83.674365

Trail Intersection. Keep left.

BAR007

Location: 35.24604, -83.673033

Pierce Creek’s burble signals the first night’s camp at mile 4.3, where dense second-growth provides tethers for a load-lightening tarp.

BAR008

Location: 35.241169, -83.644515

Turn south to wind along the Nantahala River on 4.7 flat miles with access to swimming and fishing.

BAR009

Location: 35.225363, -83.655437

Appletree campground.

BAR010

Location: 35.222206, -83.66042

Road intersection. Turn Left onto road and follow for 50 yards.

BAR011

Location: 35.221571, -83.661015

Turn left into driveway, continuing to follow blazes to rejoin foot trail.

BAR012

Location: 35.213788, -83.652611

Piped spring.

BAR013

Location: 35.20236, -83.657455

A six-inch-deep ford across concrete at the base of a 250-foot rockfill dam signals the start of a 400-foot climb past a spillway-fueled waterfall.

BAR014

Location: 35.202882, -83.6542

Views of 50' spillway waterfall. From here, a 1.5-mile wooded traverse yields the trip’s first glimpses of 1,065-acre Nantahala Lake.

BAR015

Location: 35.197585, -83.63716

Right onto Wayah Rd. At mile 14, the trail follows Wayah Road .6 mile along the lake’s shoreline

BAR016

Location: 35.191911, -83.639008

Reach the inlet of Winespring Creek—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.

BAR017

Location: 35.175628, -83.581493

At the flat, viewless summit of 5,440-foot Winespring Bald, the Bartram Trail merges with the AT. A spring just beyond makes this a welcome, primitive high-country camp.

BAR018

Location: 35.175, -83.580935

Primitive Camping with spring. 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.

BAR019

Location: 35.180227, -83.560635

From 5,342-foot Wayah’s stone summit tower, take in views of undulating, hazy blue ridges and peaks. To finish, backtrack 150 yards to the parking area.

BAR020

Location: 35.1791, -83.562741

Wayah Bald parking area