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Delay in Posting

by JP on May.24, 2009, under Hiking Trails

Sorry for the delay in posting. A new article on Helton Creek Falls will be up this week. My internet card is broken, and a replacement is being sent. Until then, I’m limited to writing drafts, and submittting this quick post. Again, sorry for not having a post this week.

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Brasstown Bald

by JP on May.17, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails


Length: 0.6 miles

Difficulty:Moderately steep, but paved

I wish I could start this post off with some beautiful view over the Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina mountains,  but unfortunately, my view from the top of Brasstown Bald was not much better than the views I had from Clingmans Dome. It looks like that just weekend was just not my weekend for hiking Georgia and Tennessee’s highest peaks.

Despite this fact,  I will still be more than happy to tell you about the trail and the park, after all, it’s not the destination that matters, its the journey to it.

As can be clearly read on the photo, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 feet. The trail and the observation tower to this point are both located within a federally protected and managed park.

Warning: Tourist Area Ahead


Upon entering the park, hikers may immediately begin to groan is dismay. There is a huge parking lot on the left that can fill up on nice summer days (I suppose there is an advantage to going on a cold cloudy day like I did because it was almost empty). In addition to the parking lot as an indicator of how “touristy” this are can be, there is also a shuttle that will bring visitors to the observation tower for a small fee. I suppose this good for this that would otherwise be unable to reach the tower, but somehow I feel these shuttles take a little value away from hiking to the top.


Near the parking area, visitors will also find a small general store, restrooms, and the ever-present fee collection stations (not that I mind paying for preservation because I do not).

Summit Trail

For those opting to climb to Brasstown Bald, and I hope that will be all of those reading this article, the Summit Trail to the top can be found just to the left of the General store.


This paved trail brings hikers along Wolfpen Ridge to the top of Brasstown Bald. While hiking through the trail, hikers will be treated to a unique system of rain and cloud forests unlike that found anywhere else in Georgia.

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Along this ridge, hikers will see trees that do not grow any farther south than Brasstown Bald. Rock fields also dot the trail, especially near the switchbacks.As hikers get closer to the top, they may notice that larger oaks disappear and are replaced by smaller shrubbery, and even a couple of  grassy balds.


At about the halfway point, hikers will make one road crossing over the road the shuttle takes to the top. Stop here and have a laugh at those riding the bus because they are missing a unique forest that may not be in Georgia forever.


One knows they are near the top of the trail, when the lookout tower and the sign that sits at the top of this page firstcome into view.


Top of Brasstown Bald

From the top, hikers (and shuttle riders alike) can explore the nature center and observation tower at their own pace.

Inside the nature center visitors will find a history of both the human and wildlife that have been through Brasstown Bald. The tower now functions, among other things, as a wildfire lookout station. A short film describing the life cycle of the Brasstown Bald geology. The video is a little dated, so don’t expect much from it.

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The point to visit at Brasstown Bald sits atop the theatre and nature center, and that is the observation tower. Don’t get your hopes up if your are planning in going in that tall enclosed tower, that is for park rangers only. The observation deck actually sits below and surrounding that tower and is much larger.


From the Observation Deck, visitors can have a 360 degree view with signs indicating what they are looking at.

On a cloudy day like the day I went, I was treated to a view of about 30 feet.

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Even if the views are bad from the top, there is one place where visitors can likely get at least one good vista. After returning to your car, there is an overlook on the far end of the parking lot. Because of the lower elevation, the clouds are less likely to be as big of a problem here. Check it out on your exit from the park.



1. From Blairsville, GA take US-19/US-129 south for 8 miles.

2. Turn left onto Georgia 180 for 9 miles.

3. Turn Left at entrance sign, and travel 3 miles to parking area.

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Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

by JP on May.12, 2009, under Outdoor Travel, Tennessee Hiking Trails

Gatlinburg, TN

Distance: 6 mile automotive loop

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail provides a very nearby opportunity to visitors of Gatlinburg to get out of downtown and see the Smoky Mountains as they were 100 years ago. This motor nature trail brings visitors to numerous historic cabins, beautiful overlooks, and deep into old growth forests and mountain streams while climbing up and down Piney Mountain. Visitors are likely to see Wild Turkey, While Tail Deer, and Black Bear among other fauna along the loop. No RV’s or other large vehicles should attempt to drive this narrow road.

Roaring Fork

Although the trail to Roaring Fork does not begin just outside of town, the history begins there. Roaring Fork was once the site of a small mountain community, and travelers will be able to walk up to three families in the community’s former homes (the Bales, Ogles, and Regans).  One mile from the Ripley’s Believe it or Not, on Cherry Orchard Road, the Ogle Farm, built in 1879, is located on the right. I have seen black bear wandering around this cabin on numerous trips to Roaring Fork, but unfortunately not so on the last trip (be sure not to be stupid like other tourist I have seen, and approach these bears).

Continue along Cherry Orchard until you see a sign to the right that warns of a “Very Crooked, Narrow One Way Road.” Take this road to begin the official part of the 5.1 mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Following along the Motor Trail, one will see several fantastic hiking trails that I will address on an individual basis later. Visitors will also notice a signs with numbers on them. These signs correspond to tour guide book that can be located in the visitors center, or to the left of the first marker (#1) for $0.50.

#2 marker indicates the location of a variety of tree species including the hemlock, tulip, and birch trees.

Roaring Fork

Marker #3 offers my second favorite view in across the Great Smoky Mountains in Roaring Fork. My favorite is just around the next two bends.

Roaring Fork

Marker #5 is located at the trail head to Grotto Falls.

Roaring Fork

Bales’ Place

Jim and Ephraim Bales and his family farmed this area ibeginning in the 1830’s. Jim even married into the family of the first cabin seen at this beginning of this journey when he married Emma Ogle. While these buildings are not the originals Jim lived in, they were built during the same period, and moved here by the park service to demonstrate the type of home that would have been located here.

Roaring Fork

Alfred Reagan Mill and Homestead:

The Reagans were likely the first Europeans to establish a farm in the Roaring Fork area, and Alfred Reagan and his brothers continued their lineage in the community with farming, milling, and even running a small general store at one time. Reagan’s tub mill, and brightly colored home can be seen

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The trails name sake can be seen throughout the drive, but visitors get a few closeups, like the shot below as the trail begins to descend back down the mountain, and cross several narrow bridges.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail finishes its loop a wonderfully named waterfall that drops right alongside the road. Go after a rain to see the “Place of 1000 Drips.” The photo does not do this area justice, as one can see water creeping and falling out of every rock crevice.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork

Trails located in/adjacent to Roaring Fork

Grotto Falls -1.2 mile one way

Trillum Gap – 6.5 mile one way to Mt. LeConte

Rainbow Falls – 2.8 miles to Rainbow Falls, 6.7 miles to Mt. LeConte


1. From Gatlinburg, Turn right at Light # 8.

2. Continue along road, and stay right at fork along Cherry Orchard Road.

3. Continue past Ogle Farm on the right until a sign indicating the beginning of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and warning of a “Very Crooked, Narrow One Way Road.”

4. After completing the loop, turn left onto 321 to return to Gatlinburg.

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Clingman’s Dome

by JP on May.06, 2009, under Tennessee Hiking Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Length: 0.5 miles one way

Difficulty: Moderate

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and in Tennessee.  From the top of the observation tower pictures above, one can, at times, see for over 100 miles in every direction. Unfortunately, these times are rare, and it is more common to be able to see for around 20 miles, which still provides outstanding views.

On my most recent trip to Clingmans Dome, however, the I was not even fortunate enough to see 20 miles. On rainy and cloudy days, the hike to Clingmans Dome is shrouded in fog, and limits views to only a few hundred feet.

One can actually choose from several different hikes to reach the observation tower. The most common route begins in the parking area 0.5 miles from the tower.

A paved trail leads from this area up a steep ascent. Along the trail, one will find a number of benches to rest. At each 0.1 mile there will also be a bench with a number indicating how many tenths of a mile you have walked.


Take your time on this popular trail as there are a number of potentially great views looking off into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Also be aware, however, that this is a very popular trail. One the last day I visited three school buses full of young children arrived just behind me.


The forest surrounding Clingmans Dome received enough participation each year (mainly from near constant cloud coverage), that is considered a coniferous rain forest. As you walk up this trail, a community of spruce-firs lies along each sides of the trail.  These beautiful trees, however, are no longer a thriving community. Clingmans Dome received the highest levels of acid rain of any national park. Due to the constant precipitation left by the clouds and rain, the spruce firs are dying, and one will quickly notice the number of empty trunks and dead limbs in the area.



In fact, while carrying a thru-hiker into town from Clingmans Dome, he informed that when he had last visited the area in 1964, the hike up to the tower was a shaded hike. Currently, the trail is completely open along both sides of the trail, and long open vistas can be seen to the left along nearly the entire hike.

Once you reach the top of the trail, you will find a large circular stone area sitting below the 54 foot concrete observation tower. This tower is very accessible, and an easy climb to the top, as it is a long slow loop to the top with no stairs. My wife likened the entry to the tower to an interstate exit ramp.

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The top of the tower offers a 360 degree view  of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina. Unfortunately, for me, on my last climb to the tower, as one can tell from the above pictures, there was virtually zero visibility. For better views than i had, wait to hike here on days that have a clear sky, and wait until around midday to arrive.




Temperatures on top of Clingmans Dome can be suprising, even on a warm spring day. Be prepared for moisture and temperatures that can be 20 degrees lower than the temperatures in the towns surrounding the mountain.

Nearby  Trails084

Approach Trail from Newfound Gap – 7 miles

Appalachian Trail – 2175 miles

Mountain to Sea Trail – approximately 1000 miles (Clingmans Dome is the trail head of this developing trail)

Directions from Gatlinburg, TN:

1. Take US 441/ US 321 towards Cherokee and Clingman’s Dome for 15 miles.

2. Pass the Clingmans Dome Overlook on the left, and turn right at Clingmans Dome Road*

*Note: While Clingmans Dome is open year around, the road approaching it is not. In the winter (Dec. 1 – March 31), an additional 7 mile hike will be required along the road.

3. Arrive at parking area prior to trail.

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