Yellow Mountain Trail is a 10.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Highlands, NC that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Yellow Mountain at 5,127 feet is one of the highest mountains in the Highlands Ranger District. On the top is a fire tower built by the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps originally in 1934, and reconstructed in the early 1990's through the joint effort of the Forest Service, local business and civic groups and volunteers. In 1992, the tower was recognized as a National Historic Lookout. Not only is the tower unique but the 360 degree view from the tower is one of the most spectacular in the District. The trail from Cole Gap to the top of Yellow Mountain starts at an elevation of 4,300 feet and goes along a Cole Mountain ridge at 4,600 feet. There is a short descent before climbing Shortoff to 5,000 feet via a set of switchbacks. At 4,640 feet, from Goat Knob the trail descends to Yellow Mountain Gap at 4,120 feet and makes the final climb up to Yellow Mountain at 5,120 feet. Shorter hikes can be made by terminating the hike at the view over the western cliffs of Cole Mountain or by continuing to the top of Shortoff. Also you can start from the Cashiers side of the trail with a RT of around 3 miles.
I didn't make it the tower though I was so close I got scared and turned back around because I didn't want to risk being stranded in the dark finding my way back. That's what I get for not starting earlier in the day. The hike was some good exercise and the leaves made it more challenging as you can't see where you're really placing your foot. I'll do the hike again in the spring because it was a freezing 37°.
It's been about 14 months since I hiked it the first time, and I decided it was time to see if this hike was as torturous as I remembered. My conditioning has definitely improved since that first time, but the hike was still long and difficult. Getting to the top of Yellow Mountain took 2 hours 15 minutes, and I was back at Buck Creek Rd in a total of 4 hours 50 minutes. The second half of the hike back is the hard part as you start hitting the hills after having already hiked 8 or 9 miles. There was minimal wildlife (saw 1 deer and a few chipmunk) and the trail was completely covered with leaves. I didn't have any trouble following the path and saw 17 other people the entire hike. If you are in town for the weekend and looking for a nice hike and an amazing view, check out Rabun Bald which is only 4-5 miles round trip. This hike takes too long if you are short on time.
This trail is well marked most of the way, and the view at the top was great! However, this trail is definitely not for the faint of heart. Steep, rocky climbs and the distance itself made for a long 6 hours for us. Bring plenty of water and snacks for energy.
This is a hard trail! Saw a black bear though. Went out 2.5 miles and turned around. The bear scared me.
Great, well maintained trail with good signage along the trail. Very challenging hike with some steep and long ascents especially the last mile as you make your way to the fire tower. The trail distance is definitely longer than it is stated on this app and in many hiking guide books. We measured 6.15 miles each way and it felt like every inch of it as we finished up the longer than expected but very enjoyable hike. Great views from the fire tower that make the struggle worth while. We finished the hike in just under 5 hours.
Beautiful views. Got lost trying to get there but definitely worth the drive.
We hiked this trail yesterday. There are new trails cut that extend the length from 4.8 miles to 6.4 miles, one way. It was windy and cold, even snowed on us, but the trail is in great shape. We found an older overgrown trail from the top which takes you through a "development" that never took off and it cut off 1.4 miles on the return. Great long views from the fire tower. The trip back to the trail head has significant elevation climb late in the hike - you knew it from the steady drop on the way out. Stop at Bucks Coffee in Cashiers on the way out to warm up and wake up after a tiring hike. Worth the trip.
Awesome trail. Very well maintained, would recommend for experienced hikers looking for some decent uphill challenges. Not a lot of waterfalls, but a very rewarding view at the top!
Great but longer than 9.6. At least 12 miles.
I hiked this today, and it was a grind 4 hours and 45 minutes from the Buck Creek Rd trailhead to the fire tower and back to Buck Creek. My GPS says just under 14 miles total, and it felt like it. There are lots of long up and down hill climbs. The trail in many spots is one person wide. Nearly all trees that have fallen have been cleared of the trail but there are a few you must lumber over. This is not a "fun" hike. It is a real test of endurance and has no great lookouts until you get to the fire tower, which is an amazing view. If you are in town for just a few days, there are many other trails with better long range views or waterfalls. I'm rating it high because it is clean and well maintained and the view from the tower is great, but I don't know if I'll hike it again.
This is a really nice hike, a great way to spend the day. The trail is well maintianed and marked although there are few places where it branches off in unexpected ways, so keep watching for the blue trail markers. Lots of nice opportunities to see some of the wild fonta and flora, and a spectacular view at the top of the mountain. Lots of ups and downs and a lot of mileage, but definitley doable in one day.
My daughters and I hiked this trail with a family friend about a month ago. We found it to just challenging enough. The last half of a mile was a bit overgrown, but that just added to the anticipation of reaching the top. The views from the fire tower made the effort well worth it. I would suggest making the hike to anyone traveling to the area. Take my advice though and pack water.
I hiked this trail 8 years ago with a friend, we went up and then down the back side of the mountain roughly 15 miles in each direction. We are experienced hikers and not stupid people, and yet against all of our best attempts the tower was completely hidden from us. Having hiked other fire-tower trails in west VA we tried using the logic of highest point of elevation to target the likely location of the historic tower, spending hours investigating side-trails along both sides of the upper ridge. Again, it was un-findable.
Hiked the whole trail in five hours, by my self yesterday... definitely worth miles to reach the top. Fantastic panoramic view in/on tower. Hips are sore, I was exhausted after all twenty miles and lots of different nature to observe. It was a good day.
Directions to trail lead to private property.
Hiked this trail today. Was beautiful. A couple of side trails lead to awesome views. The trail itself is like most trails in the Blue Ridge - tree shaded. Parked at the parking lot on the Cashiers side, was only about 10 mile total drive from the center of Cashiers.
Hiked this trail last weekend via Cole Gap. It was my second attempt since my first attempt was shortened because of a thunder storm.
The views were stunning on that Sunday afternoon. We were rewarded with views of Table Rock, and beyond, plus great views looking towards Georgia as well.
I highly recommend this trail and I'm looking to do my best to make it an annual trail.