7.5 miles
2,775 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips





wild flowers



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.