Explore 2014 Trip - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

2014 Trip Map
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A tough but enjoyable trail. A lot of steep steps. Trail is well maintained.

hiking
1 day ago

There are two ways to get to Big Butt: a stiff steep hike from NC 197 at Cane Gap or a longer ridge and multi peak climb from the Walker Knob Overlook on the BRP about 5 miles south of the Mount Mitchell State park entrance (NC 128). I took the latter route which longer, but ultimately more rewarding as you climb Brush Fence Ridge, and up and over Point Misery and Little Butt before arriving at the side trail to the summit of Big Butt.

These peaks form the western rim of the Black Mountain and lie thousands of feet above the Cane River Gorge that can be head roaring below when you get to Little Butt. The forest resembles the Mount Mitchell Trail flora and fauna, event though the elevations do not exceed 6000 feet. The trail is well maintained by the the NC High Peaks Trail Association and included hundreds of wooden step that make the climbs much easier to maneuver. The best views lie on the ridge between Little Butt and Big Butt. Unfortunately clouds rolled in when I hiked this track and so was only able to catch short glimpses of the valley to the east (and not the Black Mountain Crest). Hiking this route in early spring or late fall should give you a better chance of good weather and less foliage blocking vistas.

From the Walker Knob Overlook, take the trailhead to the SOUTH. **Be careful here as an old forest road and the Mountains to Sea also converge in the field behind the overlook parking lot. You will descend over a hundred feet before gently ascending to the top of Brush Fence Ridge and finally to the summit of Point Misery (the name was not indicative of this side of the mountain - the return trip up the backside will give you an appreciation of why it is appropriately named). The HP is just off the trail and there is a Geodetic Marker as well as several marked bearing trees nearby.

From there, descend steeply over 300 feet to a grassy gap and then ascend up a series of stairs around giant rocks to the inauspicious peak of Little Butt Mountain. The trail continues a very narrow ridge reminiscent of the Amphibuolite Mountains. Look for rock outcrops to the right and left of the trail for some tremendous views of the Black Mountains (east) and the Craggy Mountains (west).

Continue along the ridge ascending gently to a well marked side trail to the left that will take you via an interesting semi-open trail to the summit of Big Butt. No ascertainable views here, but I accidentally surprised a nide of about 30 pheasants. The tremendous fluttering and so much wing flapping and feathers flying gave a feeling of both being on the the set of THE BIRDS and of marveling at the sight of these beautiful creatures. Then the rain started. It continued off and on on the hike back and was so intense at times that I felt more like this was the Amazon rain forest, not western NC. And yet, once I got wet, it was pleasant. Only real obstacle was the relentless climb back up to Point Misery.

Of course once I got back to the car, the rain stopped and the sun came out! For completists, cross the road and hike to the crest of Walker Knob on the M-to-S trail (see separate entry for more detail on this peak and others described above).

Was a great and wonderful trail. Must be prepared, the hike is fairly easy to arch rock. Then to the bluffs, it get a little tougher but well worth it. If you plan on going to the top it get very tough we made it in 4 hrs but took well over 400 pics lol, well worth any pain or soreness you may have later.

We started this hike under a light drizzle. Not a problem as there is plenty of tree cover. It starts out straight uphill over roots, rocks and stairs. Gradual incline up to the fire trail and then straight up. Cannot comment on the view at all as Mother Nature opened the flood gates at the precise moment that we reached the peak. Our view consisted of a big fluffy cloud that blocked out everything. Nothing but fast moving water back to the fire trail. In the end the rain did not bother us and we met some great people on the trail. This one, although not the trail for a novice, will go in the record books for me.

hiked this trail last new years and it even snowed. loved the views from up there, a must hike

hiking
2 days ago

Challenging but rewarding hike!

i enjoyed the view!

This is a great hike. My partner and I have done it twice. Once in the winter and once in the late summer. My goal is to do this during the fall to see the leaves! The dog loves this place! Through hikers are always so pleasent... WATCH OUT FOR THE SNAKES!

I have previously hiked other trails up LeConte and was happy to see a change of scenery on this trail. The different rock features were interesting and the Bluff was neat. I started out early so I was able to easily find parking and avoided the crowds.

Challenging trail but, the views are amazing.

This should not be rated hard. Sure there are rocks and some roots on the trail but it’s not a sidewalk. I consider a hard trail one that requires all fours to go up and over, or at least some scrambles and that’s what I was expecting from these reviews. Didn’t happen. This was a moderate trail with a lot of switch backs that make it long but at no point was it a hard trail. I made it up and back in exactly 4.5 hours and that included all stops and my big 15 minutes at the summit to take in the views. I’ve never done a 10+ mile trail rated hard in that time. Anyway, fun hike with a lot of terrain changes (clay, dirt, sand) the switchbacks were annoying but you could see why they were needed. There was just no other way up the mountain. Tower at the top is kind of cool.

worth every step

So cool omg!!!!

beautiful hike. glad we dove the extra 2 hours to get there. one of the best views on the AT.

Challenging in spots with an amazing view for a payoff. Can get a bit crowded at the top.

hiking
4 days ago

A great hike, the stairs through the rock makes the hiking interesting. At the top of alum Cave, the view was ok, but the cave is magnificent. My 5 year old enjoyed it.

My favorite hike ever!! We started the hike at about 7:15am so there were only a few other people along the trail so early. Inspiration point at about 2 miles is beautiful! Alum cave was pretty neat too. Above there is where the hike really gets interesting to me. Such amazing views and some of the cliffs you are on just make it a great experience. A long hike but worth the effort. We went to the lodge and Cliff Top. I am so glad we did the spur to Cliff Top, the views were stunning!! Felt like we were on top of the world! Took us roughly 6 hours start to finnish. One piece of advice, bring food, we did not and were starving for the last few miles. The Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg was the best $40 I ever spent afterwards.

Amazing views well worth the trek up the mountain side, the hike will take your whole day. One of my favorite places in the smokies for sure.

This was one of the most beautiful hikes to date.. I highly recommend it but be ready, We did it in 4 hrs but well worth it!!!

Did this with my daughter on my back. She weighs 34 lbs so it was a little more difficult. the trail is rocky at times. very steady incline untill you cross the fire road towards the end. this is where the trail begins to be more of an incline. i believe this is where most of the challenge is. the air gets thinner a little bit. the scenery at this point is amazing. once you get to the top there are multiple ledges to grab a great view from. on the way back if you take the fire road it is much simpler and easy. very wide path and still some great scenery. not to crowded if you hit it in the early am.

AWESOME TRAIL! The Alum Cave makes a great, scenic half-way point to sit and rest or eat. The second half is way more strenuous, but SO MUCH FUN! Even though it was foggy at the top, the lodge was a joy and the hot chocolate was pleasant. Looking forward to doing this one again.

This was a nice hike! Overall, it wasn't as hard as we thought it would be, but it was definitely challenging. It had rained a lot the night before we hiked and the trail was extremely muddy and wet, with water running down the trail in a stream at some points. I think we could have done it a bit faster if not for that. The trail surface is definitely rocky and rooty, and I would highly highly advise hiking boots. We started at 6:45am, summited at 10:30am, left the top at 11am, and finished around 2pm. It was cloudy at the top with pretty much no views, oh well. More about the journey for this one. We were the first hikers of the day to summit and encountered about 30 people on the way back down, about half of which were backpacking and half of which were day hiking. Other notes: it's definitely longer than 10.4 miles if you start at the parking lot and end at the top of the observation tower. By our estimates/GPSes, over 11 miles. Also, there are a few switchbacks on the trail that you could miss if you weren't paying attention. We encountered a group of people who were lost on a false trail and we almost went down the wrong one once.

This was our second time taking this trail up to the lodge. Beautiful trail and the views at the top are amazing. Unfortunately on this trip at the top the fog and clouds were socked in. Still worth the journey up there.

This trail was beautiful! We hiked to the bluffs and the view there was fantastic! The scenery, bridges, arch and so much more made this trail very interesting. Something different at every turn. Will do this one again.

Amazing hike. Nice seeing the different types of plants as the elevation changes. Leconte is awesome! We saw a large black bear driving there early in the morning as well. it poured half the trip but it was still 100% worth it.

THIS IS A MUST SEE TRAIL. One of the best views I’ve ever seen the whole way up. Every .25miles you have an amazing view whether it’s an overlook, a cave, a natural waterfall formed by the constant stream, or the huge cave opening. Highly highly recommend this one.

Nice trail, well maintained, and nice views at the top. It was a bit crowded with multi-day hikers, experienced Day hikers, and tourists who don’t hike regularly. I was a little disappointed with the “iconic” aspect of this view — for me it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

hiking
13 days ago

Made an over night loop of this trail and a few others. The Mount Mitchell trail is fine, plenty of water sources, really gradual pace to the top and well traveled. The summit was crowed but pretty much what you would expect if you've seen mountains before. The rest of the trails are where this place shines. Every thousand feet the surrounding radically changed from mossy woods, to pine forests and dense brush. The Pisgah is always rewarding.

Challenging hike with lots of rocks and roots. Dense forest most of the way and good views at the top if you get a clear day (hit or miss). Was heavily trafficked at the top by people who drove up. For us, it was a do it just to check the box hike but not the most beautiful or rewarding we have done. 3.5 hours up and 2.5 down. Early morning start (7am) meant cool temps throughout but still very humid in July. Cool that it's the highest peak East of the Mississippi.

This trail is awesome! I hiked it on 8/2/18 and already want to hike it again. We got there early morning around 8 am and saw no one else on the trip up. The arch was really cool and the the cave was not what I thought it would look like but loved it. It rained our whole hike so being under the cave overhand was a nice dry break. The best part are the bluffs. Make sure you make it at least that far. Even in the storm the views are spectacular.

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