Yellow Mountain Trail

HARD 68 reviews
#5 of 83 trails in

Yellow Mountain Trail is a 11.9 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Highlands, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
11.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2952 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

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.

hiking
4 days ago

Very well marked trail. Some trees are down after Irma.
Pretty sleep elevation gain, so it was a great work out. We did it on a foggy rainy Sunday and didn’t meet any single person.
Flowers along the way and mossy trees.

hiking
4 days ago

Beautiful hike and amazing views at the top.

2 months ago

Definitely a tough challenge! Worth the experience especially at the top!

hiking
4 months ago

Nice trail with a beautful view. This trail is most definitely NOT a loop, and is longer than the distance given. Just follow the blue blazes (which are spread out) and you'll be fine.

hiking
5 months ago

Awesome hike but not 10.6 miles nor a loop. Got lost and ended up doing 14.2 miles.

hiking
6 months ago

Hiked this from the north side of the mountain and much shorter than the buck Creek entrance. The view and tower were great. Will definitely do again!

trail running
6 months ago

An awesome spot for a trail run. I did it in the rain yesterday, Some technical parts and some climbing, but a really fun trail!

My gps said it was 6.08 miles to the fire tower, then I came back the same way. I didn't see a loop.
So 12.1 miles round trip.

hiking
6 months ago

Have done this trail in the past. Amazing view at the top, but the trail signage is definitely deceptive on the distance now that the trails have been redone.

Looking to hike this again, but one of the shorter options due to a limited schedule. Does anyone have specifics to get to some of the starts on the shorter options? Can't seem to find a trail map for those options

7 months ago

There was a ton of debris from Irma which made a tough hike even tougher. You need to prepare for 12 + miles of tough up and downs there and back. Tremendous views at the top.

hiking
9 months ago

Yes, this is a great workout. Beautiful scenery. Make sure you are physically fit enough to hike this trail. The comments below from other hikers are correct. This trail is almost 13 miles. We did not realize that, of course, when we started, therefore, we were hiking out the last couple of miles after dark....not good. Please make sure to allow enough daylight hours, accounting for some rest time because of the strenuous nature of the trail. I would definitely do it again though. Great photos from our hikes. :)

10 months ago

Much longer and more difficult than I anticipated. Don't start this trail at mid day.

hiking
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The trail, one way, is 6.4 miles according to my GPS. I stayed on the Yellow Mountain trail the entire time even though there are a few other trails that branch off or intersect it. The trail has spots of tree roots and rocks but for the most part, is well maintained except for some trees covering the trail. The view at the top is great for a North Carolina hike. It is a trail that is equally difficult coming back as it was going up because you are strained from the trek to the top and you must still ascend the same mountains that you climbed going to Yellow Mountain. This can be verified by my Fitbit and I burned almost the same amount of calories coming back. Overall, if you want to be alone and you want a good workout, go on a weekday and you may not see anyone else the entire time.

hiking
Monday, April 03, 2017

It was a good hike, I went when it was foggy in hopes to see the fog and mist over the mountains, but I saw nothing because the fog was so dense at the top that I saw nothing. But it technically was a 5 star hike, just I had a poor-ish experience.

hiking
Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Great although misleading long. the trailhead and most places indicate that it is only 10.4 however the northernmost part of the loop is closed (or overgrown at the very least). So its closer to 13 miles from what I can tell. Fitbit says 16, but it wasnt that long for sure. There is a lot of elevation changes and long uphills/downhills. The top is well worth the hike and definitely worth exploring up there for a while.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The up downs are no joke.

hiking
Wednesday, January 04, 2017

We departed the trail head at Buck Creek Road at 10:10. It took us 2 hours 40 minutes to the top and just under 3 hours back down. the sign at the trail head said the trail is 4.8 miles one way. My FitBit tracker logged me in at just over 14 miles. Very long trail to say the least. the switch backs going up the hill sides made the hike easier for sure. the trails were very well marked and for the most part are in good shape. I myself prefer a shorter more strenuous trail such as Table Rock but I still enjoyed the hike and will definately be back up there in the fall to see the leaves in bloom. the view is fantastic up top.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

It took a while to find the trailhead because I didn't know what exactly I was looking for but there is a big yellow sign that reads "National Forest Yellow Mtn. Trail". You can leave your car right across the street from the trailhead in a turnout area.

My group and I started the trail late, around 1pm and made it to the summit around 1730. We did not stay long because the sun was setting but the view and colors of the sky was amazing! If you start the hike late in the day like me, be sure to point out plenty of physical markers! There are blue tags every now and then to keep you on the trail but there is a part on the trail when you are declining and you take a sharp right. On the way back we missed this sharp turn (which would have been a sharp left incline) and continued going straight instead. We ended up off trail and took about 3 hours to get back on trail. There could be more signs to help keep you on trail although we shouldn't have been out there in the dark.

The summit view is a great reward and I would have liked to have stayed there longer to enjoy the view and rest. The fire tower is free to climb up into to further take in the view. This is definitely a day hike that you should start before noon. It's not impossible to do later in the day, just be well prepared for hiking back in the cold, dark night.

hiking
Friday, December 09, 2016

The Cole Gap Trailhead is located at the intersection of Buck Creek Road and NF4535.
35.104520, -83.203950

Facilities: Just across the road from the trailhead on Buck Creek Road is a dirt/gravel parking area for maybe five or so cars. No restrooms or other facilities other than a historic firetower at the top of Yellow Mountain.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

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°.

hiking
Tuesday, November 01, 2016

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.

hiking
Monday, September 05, 2016

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.

hiking
Friday, July 22, 2016

This is a hard trail! Saw a black bear though. Went out 2.5 miles and turned around. The bear scared me.

hiking
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beautiful views. Got lost trying to get there but definitely worth the drive.

hiking
Saturday, April 09, 2016

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.

hiking
Monday, February 22, 2016

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!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Great but longer than 9.6. At least 12 miles.

hiking
Monday, September 07, 2015

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.

hiking
Friday, August 28, 2015

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.

hiking
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

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.

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