Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) Segment 2
LENGTH: 61 MILES
RATING: MOST DIFFICULT
DOGS: ON LEASH
The Mountains to Sea Trail is 1,175 miles in entirety starting at Clingman’s Dome and leading all the way to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks. Currently 700 miles of the footpath have been completed and Haywood County is home to a gorgeous 61 mile stretch of the MST. Of those 61 miles 57.4 are on the trail, 1.9 on gravel roads, and 1.7 on paved roads. The MST is split up into 18 “Segments” and Haywood County is Segment 2, named “The Balsams.” Segment 2 is one of the most biodiverse areas of the world featuring spruce-fir and rhododendron thickets.
Eastbound Elevation Profile:
LENGTH: 1.2 MILES
With an abandoned plane crash from 1983 and views starting from the parking area, Waterrock Knob is a must-stop site along the Mountains-to-Sea trail. This peak (6,292 feet) is the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States and the the 15th highest of the 40 mountains in North Carolina over 6,000 feet. There are fantastic views both east and west from the mile high parking area complete with picnic tables to soak in the views and enjoy the day. The parking lot is also home to a Visitor Center and restrooms. This is one of the best places in the North Carolina mountains to watch a sunrise or sunset and view all of the major southern mountain ranges: the Great Balsams, Great Smokies, Cowees, Nantahalas, Blue Ridge Mountains, Newfound Mountains, Blacks, and Craggies.
From Maggie Valley, head South on US 19 towards Cherokee to take a right on the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance ramp and another right at the stop sign. The turn for Waterrock Knob will be on the left with signs to the parking lot. This section of the Parkway closes frequently during the winter for snow and ice.
Graveyard Fields Hiking Trail and Waterfalls
LENGTH: 2.3 MILES
Though the name may sound spooky, there is nothing scary about this beautiful hike in Canton, NC. Named after the tree stumps that resemble gravestones that were left behind from logging and fire destroyed much of the forest and soil, the hike visits two beautiful waterfalls, the multi-tiered second falls and the tall cascades of the upper falls. The trail winds through a stream-filled valley filled with wild blackberry and blueberry bushes that burst with fruit in the late summer months, and takes about 2.5 hours to complete. Graveyard Fields makes for one amazing, unforgettable hike. A map at the parking area shows the Graveyard Fields trail system, and Graveyard Fields is also one of the few hiking places along the Parkway with restrooms.
This trail begins at the Graveyard Fields Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the U.S. Highway 276 junction with the parkway, turn left or south on the Parkway and continue to milepost 418.8(about 6 miles).
LENGTH: 11.1 MILES
Although it’s a roundtrip hike of more than 11 miles, this hike to Mt. Cammerer is still the shortest and most commonly used route to the summit of the 4928-foot mountain and features a “western” style fire tower. From the trailhead hikers will climb the Low Gap Trail for three long miles before reaching the Appalachian Trail. The first section of trail travels between Cosby Creek and the Cosby Campground. Hikers will traverse along a ridge that offers decent views of the Cosby and Toms Creek valleys through the trees. At just under 5 miles hikers will reach the rugged spur trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Cammerer. The spur is roughly six-tenths of a mile long, is fairly level, but does involve some rock scrambling as you approach the fire lookout. Although the last tenth-of-a-mile traverses over some fairly rugged terrain, the view is well worth it.
This hike to Mt. Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains begins from the Low Gap Trailhead next to the Cosby Campground. To reach the trailhead from the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light 3), turn to travel eastbound on Highway 321/73 for 18.2 miles until the road dead-ends into Highway 32. Turn right towards Cosby and drive 1.2 miles to the park entrance. Turn right into the park and drive another 2.1 miles to the Cosby Campground entrance station. At the entrance station you’ll be directed to turn left into a large parking area for the Low Gap Trailhead.
LENGTH: 2.5 MILES
Double waterfalls are a rarity and this one is a hidden gem! Soco Falls, located just a short walk off the main road, is a perfect way to start your scenic adventure. The falls sit right in between Maggie Valley and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The trail begins between the guard rail and metal fence, and ends at a viewing deck overlooking the falls and taller falls with a height of 120 ft.For a closer view, continue down a short but steep trail from the deck to the base of the waterfalls, where the trail will switch back and take you down the falls,. Be careful, this section has some ropes to help with balance and can be very slippery. Rhododendrons and northern hardwoods surround the falls in the lush cove.
From Maggie Valley head up US 19 South to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cross under the Parkway and continue downhill towards Cherokee. From the Parkway, it’s 1.5 miles to a marked pull-off on the left side of the road. There’s a small blue sign indicating Soco Falls 0.5 miles ahead. The trail begins at the break in the guardrail.
Lemon Gap to Max Patch
LENGTH: 10.5 MILES
Hike a scenic alternate route to the ultra-popular Max Patch Mountain. Follow the Appalachian Trail from Lemon Gap, climbing through a mossy, creek-filled forest to exceptional summit views from the grassy, sunny mountain bald. Max Patch Mountain is one of the most visited, most photographed, and most well-loved mountaintops on the Appalachian Trail in the South. The adventure begins at the Lemon Gap trailhead on Max Patch Road, and winds through the shady forest, meandering through switchbacks, crossing several small creeks over rustic wooden bridges, and passing a large campsite. Wildflowers thrive on the forest’s floor in late springtime, covering the sides of the trail in millions of colorful blooms.
The hike reaches an intersection with the Appalachian Trail at 6.25 miles.
I-40 West to Exit 7 Harmon Den (NC). Turn right at the end of the exit ramp onto gravel road (Cold Springs Road). Follow this road uphill for about 6 miles then turn left until it ends. Turn left onto Max Patch Road (SR 1182), the parking area is about 1.5 miles on right. Continue on down this road about 4 miles to Lemon Gap.
Green Knob Hike in Middle Prong Wilderness
LENGTH: 9 MILES
This hike takes you along the Mountains to Sea Trail in a remote section of the Pisgah National Forest. The entire hike is above 5000 ft in elevation, and you’ll explore forests of oaks, birches, beeches, spruces and firs. You’ll cross the headwaters of clear, cold mountain creeks and have a distant view of a high, thin, unnamed waterfall. You’ll travel through rocky heath balds as well as grassy balds and patches of blueberries. Atop Green Knob, a spectacular view of the Flat Laurel Creek valley and Sam Knob awaits. If you’re looking for solitude, hike to Green Knob.
Follow NC 215 South through Canton (follow signs, there are several turns). Continue on NC 215, past Lake Logan, and up the West Fork Pigeon River valley, to the parking area just before the Parkway on the right.