Rocky Bald via Burningtown Gap Nantahala National Forest, NC
miles
LENGTH 6.3 MILES
DIFFICULTY 9.7 Easy
Medium
DURATION 3-4 hours
ELEVATION GAIN
1530
feet
TRAIL TYPE
There And
Back Again
Rocky Bald via Burningtown Gap

Avoid the crowds of nearby lookout towers and hike a less popular section of the Appalachian Trail from Burningtown Gap to an expansive view from the summit of Rocky Bald. For a shorter but steeper option, check out Rocky Bald via Tellico Gap.

Begin this hike at Burningtown Gap. Look for the trail to the left from where the road ends at the parking area. The AT crosses through the gap so make sure you're going the right way as there are no north or south markers. The hike begins with its longest ascent, climbing at a rate of 600 feet per mile for the first 1.8 miles.

At 1.1 miles you pass the Cold Spring shelter, staying straight. At 1.9 miles you'll get a small view on your right near the summit of Cooper Ridge Bald. This is the only unobstructed view until Rocky Bald. Cold weather will provide winter views through the trees throughout most of the hike, but in summer you'll only find these two views. From here, the trail levels out along the ridge for the rest of the hike until reaching the Rocky Bald spur trail on your right at 3 miles in.

Climb the steep spur trail to an open rock ledge that provides a near 180-degree view to the east. On the way up you'll cross over a few bare rock sections. Look for the blue blazes on the ground to lead the way and be careful if it's wet or icy. Looking out toward Sylva, you can see to the edge of the Nantahala National Forest where it borders Pisgah National Forest along the Blue Ridge Parkway about 30 miles in the distance.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Length
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
0.5 mi
68 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
1.2 mi
420 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
1.1 mi
654 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.3 mi
277 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
431 ft
132 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
Navigation
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead Look for the trail to the left from where the road ends at the parking area.
1.14 mi
1.14 mi - Stay Straight at Cold Spring Shelter Stay straight as you pass by the Cold Spring shelter. A side trail on the left leads to a privy. Just after this another side trail on the right marked with a sign leads to a campsite.
1.86 mi
1.86 mi - Cooper Ridge Bald View Small view on the right near the summit of Cooper Ridge Bald.
3.03 mi
3.03 mi - Turn Right Turn right on the blue-blazed Rocky Bald spur trail.
3.11 mi
3.11 mi - Rocky Bald View
Details
length6.3 miles
difficulty9.7 Easy-Medium
duration3 - 4 hours
features Dog Friendly  Summit  Views 
trail typeThere And Back Again
blazeWhite (AT), Blue (Rocky Bald Spur)
elevation gain1530 ft.
park/forestNantahala National Forest
ranger districtNantahala Ranger District
90 Sloan Road
Franklin, NC 28734
828-524-6441
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.222482, -83.562278 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°13.35, W 83°33.74 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°13'21'', N 35°13'21'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.222482, -83.562278 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°13.35, W 83°33.74 most GPS units use this one
N 35°13'21'', N 35°13'21'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
Ben Creek Road is gravel but fine for low ground clearance vehicles.
Parking Capacity
6-8 vehicles.
Notes
Better views along the way in November and December.
Ben Creek Road is closed seasonally from January 1 - April 1.
Rocky and rooty in places but nothing out of the ordinary.
If it's wet or icy, take caution on the steep bare rock sections on the Rocky Bald spur trail.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
4 (1)
hikethesouth-3 months ago
Find Some Solitude and a Great View
There's a much shorter route to Rocky Bald but starting at Burningtown Gap will take you along a less traveled section of the AT. Even at the view there's less chance of others there due to Wesser Bald fire tower just north that attracts most day hikers and Wayah Bald to the south. Easy to follow hike with a nice payoff at the end.
Easy-Medium | Hiked Fall 2019
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