Newton Bald Loop Trail is a 23.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Bryson City, NC that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
There are several loop options connecting Deep Creek with Newton's Bald. I did mine by going up the Thomas Divide Trail and coming back down through the Sunkato Ridge Trail. The 23.1 miles sounds about right. Did it in about 10 hrs.
While it's sister ridge line trail to the west, the Noland Divide, delivers stunning vistas, the more understated Thomas Divide offers remote solitude. I did the entire loop on a Sunday in August w/o seeing another human being, Granted, it was drizzly all the way up to the bald, but I doubt this trail gets much attention on the most radiant of days. Part of the reason is due to the trail head's location. Its outside the main campground network and the most accessible way there is by taking Galbraith Creek Road, off US 19. It'll take you right into the park (becoming Tom's Branch Rd.) where you'll immediately see the sign for the trail and parking on the right.
Typical of all trails in Deep Creek, the Thomas Divide is very well-maintained - despite its relative remoteness.
It begins as a fire road. After a mile, you'll see Stone Pile Gap Trail to your left and you might notice a spur leading off to the right from the road. There's a down fence across it. I lifted it, revealing a "No Trespassing" sign. Beyond the fence you can see a home and the Stone Pile Gap Road in the distance. Perhaps the natives gave up on the fence and decided to amuse themselves by watching confused hikers wander through their backyards.
The road steadily climbs for 2 more miles until the Thomas Divide spurs off to the right as a horse trail. After 2.4 miles it descends down to Deep Low Gap, where it becomes a foot path in earnest. Without horses feeding on the undergrowth, the next 3 miles was a bit bushy, so I was totally soaked by the time I got to Campsite 52.
There, you can take the Newtons Bald Trail for a 1.5 mile round trip to the "bald" and back. Is it worth it? Not really. Like most balds in the park, this one has long since re-forested and now serves only as a trail intersection. I'm glad I went over, but........
Returning back through the campsite, the Thomas Divide descends down to the Sunkato Ridge Trail leading back to Deep Creek. The sun came out at this point and remained with me for the rest of the day - ahhh...sunny Sunkota!. Hugging a ridge, it circles downward to Martins Gap, then ascends up another ridge and continues on until reaching the Loop Trail in Deep Creek - about 8.5 miles in total. Unlike the Thomas Divide, the Sunkato appears to have some pretty nice ridge views when the leaves are down. Lots of bear activity on this one - plenty of scat. Shortly after starting the trail, I saw a cub up in a tree. I began singing The Erie Canal loudly enough to let mama know I was moving on down the trail!
The Loop Trail goes down about a half mile to Indian Creek Trail. From there, heading south for 0.3 miles, the Stone Pile Gap Trail spurs off to the left, presenting a stubborn little ascent for sore feet up a creek bed and around a ridge for a mile-long trip back to the Thomas Divide Trail for the final push back to the parking area.
Definitely not a hike for either creek hugging or view gazing. This one is for the joy of just getting out there. ( :
3 stars..........and add 1 more just for the hell of it!