Naked Ground Trail

HARD 5 reviews

Naked Ground Trail is a 7.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Robbinsville, North Carolina that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from February until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.5 miles
2,775 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips





wild flowers



Take the lower loop of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail (#43) counter clockwise until you see the sign for Naked Ground Trail (#55). Once you make it to the top you can either go left to Stratton Bald or right to the lookout. From the lookout follow the Jenkins Meadow Trail to make it back to Joyce Memorial.

2 days ago

Don't come in the summer... the trail was overgrown. We spent half of the time walking into thorny plants and avoiding spider webs. We spent the entire time swatting away little flies. We're avid hikers and enjoy long strenuous hikes. We're avid hikers and enjoy long challenging hikes. I considered this hike more moderate than difficult but it was a good workout. But we didn't go all the way to the ridge because we were just tired of spiders getting caught in our hair and bugs flying into our eyes. My legs are quite scratched from the thorns. Maybe it would be less overgrown in the fall or winter. We saw some large beautiful trees, but that honestly didn't make it worth the other frustrations.

2 months ago

This hike kicked our butts! Definitely a challenging hike with many obstacles along the way.
We arrived at the Jenkins Meadows trailhead late in the afternoon and parked about .5miles from the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Upon arriving, we met a nice man from Georgia who had spent the last 5 days hiking through this forest. He had not seen anyone along the way so this area is great if you're looking for some solitude.
We said goodbye to our helpful guide and began our adventure by walking the .5 miles to the joyce kilmer memorial forest. When you arrive at the trailhead, you will see two different trails. If you take the trail to your right (right before the informational sign), it will take you to the naked ground trailhead. The trail was technically closed (as of 5/15/18) but the man we had met earlier instructed us to use it anyways. Had we taken the other trail, it would have included the Joyce KIlmer Memorial trail and the HUGE hemlock trees. We took this trail when we returned and were not disappointed. Interestingly enough, the other access point to the naked ground trailhead was marked as closed too. So if you're planning to do the naked ground trail, you're gonna have to ignore the sign at some point or another. We had no issues hiking though this "closed" area.
After a short distance, we veered up and to the right which put us on the naked ground trail. We hiked this relatively easy part for another hour or so until we made camp. We chose the 3rd campsite and were very pleased! The water was easily accessed and we had plenty of trees to tie up our hammocks. The one thing we struggled with was finding a tree to tie up our food. The trees in this forest are very tall with few branches. Be prepared to search for the right tree!
We woke early the next morning and took our time breaking down our camp. We left our campsite around 9:30am and made our way towards Naked Ground. There were a couple more campsites along the way. They were all positioned very close to the water but i wouldn't consider these sites easily accessible to water.
The last large campsite is located maybe .5-1.0 mile before the most challenging part of this trail. We passed over a few streams along the way but it wasn't until we hiked over and then up a small stream that we came to the switchbacks.
This map does not include the switchbacks. As others have stated, there are 8 switchbacks. #6 and #7 are the longest of the bunch. #8 is definitely the steepest. I believe it was #5 when we encountered a fallen tree. I'm 6ft tall and struggled to find stable ground to get over this tree. Ended up wedging my hiking stick on a branch and using this as leverage to get my other leg over. Very steep drop off so this part was a little scary.
Finally reached Naked Ground at 12:30pm after one of the most challenging climbs i've ever done. The view was amazing. You can even see Lake Santeetlah from the top. We set up camp here in a nice grassy patch. This was the most peaceful spot to camp. I remember waking around 4am and couldn't hear a thing. So peaceful and quiet. We were pleasantly surprised to find we had cell phone service here. As two females alone on the trail, it was comforting to have service. Allowed us to check the status of the weather too which changed our plans for the following day.

WATER AT NAKED GROUND: If you're standing at the trail intersection post, go right and down to find your water source. This trail will split almost instantly and you will want to go left. Walk down this trail for maybe 5 minutes and your water source is to the right! It wasn't much but sufficed. We filled up water bottles and filtered back at the campsite. Its not deep enough to filter directly.
Our plan was to hike to the Hangover and then take Jenkins Meadows down to our car. But after the grueling hike up and a forecast of rain in our future, we decided to come back the way we came. Much easier trip down! Only took up 3 hours to arrive at the Joyce Kilmer memorial. Dropped our packs here and did the Joyce Kilmer loop which felt like a breeze! There were no cars here when we started the loop. On our way back down, we passed about 8-10 people. This was the only time we encountered others!
Great hike with some very challenging aspects!
Water is plentiful along the way. Small stream at Naked Ground. Cell phone service at Naked ground too.
Lots of trees down along the way. Be prepared to maneuver over and under large fallen trees.
The fire of 2016 definitely left its mark but this forest is very lush and dense even so.
Great hike but be prepared to feel the burn!

If i were to do this hike again, I would consider taking jenkins meadows to Naked ground with a short detour to Hangover. We were so exhausted after those switchbacks that we didn't have the energy to include the Hangover.

3 months ago

Definitely a challenging trail. Our book said over 4100 elevation because we did Hangover loop. The Naked Ground Trail was much prettier than Jenkins Meadow. Camping on top was great, in the 20s at night & morning (end of April) and windy. Hangover is a must see & highlight of the trip. It was above my pay grade & I run marathons, but not with 30 lbs. on my back. Feeling the burn!

3 months ago

This is one of those trails that continues like a slow turning screw, becoming more and more resistant with each passing groove. I kept thinking about that grinning rock which greets you before the real struggles begin: "Does it know something I don’t?" There are harder trails out there, but it gets my AAA (3 Aleve) rating.

Its a hike through a beautiful, old growth forest following the Little Santeetlah all the way up to the Haoe Lead where you can either turn right to visit the Hangover or go left to Statton Bald. While the trees of the NGT may lack some of the star power of those found on the Kilmer Loop below, they are spectacular nevertheless. The fire that swept through in 2016 still shows its mark, but these giants of mostly pine, poplar and red oak, shook it off as less troubling than a cloudy day!

The trail itself is easy to follow and idiot proof - not necessarily a given in this combined wilderness.

Here are a few updates to the info already posted:

-At this time the right end of the Joyce Kilmer Loop Trail is currently closed due to fire damage. Therefore, you must go left and do a bit more of the loop before reaching the terminus of the NGT. Repairs are nearly complete and it should be open very soon, but I would recommend always doing the entire loop whenever possible. Its less than a mile long and the forest is amazing!!

-No recent blow-downs to report. As Robert mentioned, there are fallen trunks here and there, but nothing that will slow you down or scratch you up much..

-The alternate trail is still abandoned and "closed." Not recommended.

- I counted 8 switch-backs on the earnest ascent up the ridge to the gap. #6 and #7 are really long ones, but #8 is mercifully brief. I think that knowing the number might take some of the menace out of them. There are two other meandering switch-backs well before the serious climb, but believe me, you'll know when its time to count!

- Finally, I measured the trail to be about 4.5 miles long, making it closer to a 9 mile trip instead of the 7.5 posted in the description. I think some of the difference might be found in the GPS map included here. Its seems to exclude the switch-back distances; choosing to simply zip straight up the ridge instead. Regardless of how many, these are some hard won miles that can be savored for their rewards.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

This strenuous hike had plenty of obstacles including a tree top that had fallen across 20 feet of the trail within the first half mile off of Joyce Kilmer Loop. There is a sign that points the way to Jenkins Meadow Trail (faint unmarked trail to the right) or continue straight 20 feet there is a fork. If you take the left fork its a small alternate section of Naked Ground Trail that goes to a campground near the creek but I lost the trail and had to go back to the fork and take the fork to the right. I crossed multiple streams feeding into the Little Santeelah and there were too many tree trunks in trail to count. Some had to crossed over and some had to be taken from underneath. At one point I had to remove my pack to go underneath. Once you hit the switch backs you are close to the top but those switchbacks seem never ending. I did not encounter another hiker on this trail on my way up or down. About 1.2 miles into the climb I encountered a huge bolder with a natural smiley face (I included a picture). This was a very strenuous hike, all uphill and the higher I climbed the steeper it got.