dogs on leash
From car to car it's actually 8.5 miles. Beautiful hike and loved the trails. Felt sorry for the lady whose husband drug her through on a bike going in the not recommended direction. The hills in that direction were killers. What I loved most is with three of our four hikers having knee, feet, and hip issues, we really wanted a hike without the steep climbs most of this region has to offer. And we still got the beautiful views a peak climb would offer!
(Other than wondering around Clingman's Dome this was my first encounter with the Appalachian Trail.) Three of us hiked from the Nantahala Outdoor Center north about 2.5 miles into the Appalachian trail, turned around and hiked back. This is the reason I want to start section hiking the "AT", it's absolutely beautiful! This trail walks you up from the road to about 400 feet (when we turned around) and is in excellent shape. It's a clearly hiked path and a very nice workout. I would suggest this to anyone that is not familiar with hiking mostly because, well, it's more than a walk into the woods. The rocks formations, the view, the landscape, are all unbelievable. Park your car by the center and make a day trip out of it, I'll be back for sure.
We departed the trail head at Buck Creek Road at 10:10. It took us 2 hours 40 minutes to the top and just under 3 hours back down. the sign at the trail head said the trail is 4.8 miles one way. My FitBit tracker logged me in at just over 14 miles. Very long trail to say the least. the switch backs going up the hill sides made the hike easier for sure. the trails were very well marked and for the most part are in good shape. I myself prefer a shorter more strenuous trail such as Table Rock but I still enjoyed the hike and will definately be back up there in the fall to see the leaves in bloom. the view is fantastic up top.
It took a while to find the trailhead because I didn't know what exactly I was looking for but there is a big yellow sign that reads "National Forest Yellow Mtn. Trail". You can leave your car right across the street from the trailhead in a turnout area.
My group and I started the trail late, around 1pm and made it to the summit around 1730. We did not stay long because the sun was setting but the view and colors of the sky was amazing! If you start the hike late in the day like me, be sure to point out plenty of physical markers! There are blue tags every now and then to keep you on the trail but there is a part on the trail when you are declining and you take a sharp right. On the way back we missed this sharp turn (which would have been a sharp left incline) and continued going straight instead. We ended up off trail and took about 3 hours to get back on trail. There could be more signs to help keep you on trail although we shouldn't have been out there in the dark.
The summit view is a great reward and I would have liked to have stayed there longer to enjoy the view and rest. The fire tower is free to climb up into to further take in the view. This is definitely a day hike that you should start before noon. It's not impossible to do later in the day, just be well prepared for hiking back in the cold, dark night.
The Cole Gap Trailhead is located at the intersection of Buck Creek Road and NF4535.
Facilities: Just across the road from the trailhead on Buck Creek Road is a dirt/gravel parking area for maybe five or so cars. No restrooms or other facilities other than a historic firetower at the top of Yellow Mountain.
This is a great trail! Definitely not easy but great if you love a challenge and the feeling of being away from everything. We didn't see anyone else which was nice. There were a few fallen trees that we had to climb over and through. The path is very narrow so wear good shoes or boots!