Wayah Bald via Burningtown Gap Nantahala National Forest, NC
DIFFICULTY 12.8 Medium
DURATION 4-5 hours
There And
Back Again
Wayah Bald via Burningtown Gap

Soak up majestic views from the summit lookout tower of Wayah Bald on this 9 mile hike southbound along the Appalachian Trail. While you can drive right up to the tower, that's no fun and won't burn off the waffles with extra syrup you had for breakfast. This route will give you a few miles while not being overly difficult and makes a great early winter hike before the roads close in January.

Beginning at Burningtown Gap, take the Appalachian Trail on the right of the entrance road. To the left heads north to Rocky Bald and after that Wesser Bald. The first 1.5 miles gains 450 feet over a steady incline. On the way up, take the second left in a 6-way intersection with what look like old roads. Both side of the trail are well marked with the AT's white blaze, so you should have no problem.

Just before the trail begins to descend you'll pass 3 minor views on the left. The peak in the distance is your final destination of Wayah Bald. These views are better in winter. Continue on through a bit of rolling elevation, passing through Licklog Gap before the most difficult climb on this hike. Gain 800 feet over the last mile as you make your way up to the summit of Wayah Bald. On the way up you'll pass a side trail for the Wayah shelter and afterward connect with the yellow-blazed Bartram Trail for the final leg up.

For your efforts, you'll be rewarded with outstanding views in all directions from the stone lookout tower and the viewing platform below. From here, you'll be able to see an astounding amount of other popular hiking destinations, including Albert Mountain, Cheoah Bald, Rabun Bald, Scaly Mountain, Siler Bald, Standing Indian Mountain and Whiteside Mountain to name a few.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
1.6 mi
222 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
1.4 mi
517 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
1 mi
618 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.5 mi
393 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
0.2 mi
268 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead Take the Appalachian Trail southbound to the right of the entrance road.
0.85 mi
0.85 mi - Second Left At the 6-way intersection, take the second left. White blazes indicate the way.
1.43 mi
1.43 mi - Views Several good winter views on the left.
2.24 mi
2.24 mi - Licklog Gap Pass through Licklog Gap. A campsite and blue-blazed trail to a water source are on the right.
3.67 mi
3.67 mi - Stay Straight A side trail on the left leads to the Wayah shelter and a side trail on the right leads to another water source.
4.03 mi
4.03 mi - Turn Right Follow the sign and turn right to stay on the AT. The yellow-blazed Bartram Trail joins from straight ahead.
4.35 mi
4.35 mi - Cross Gravel Road Stay straight across gravel road.
4.56 mi
4.56 mi - Wayah Bald Lookout Tower
length9.2 miles
difficulty12.8 Medium
duration4 - 5 hours
features Dog Friendly  History  Summit  Views 
trail typeThere And Back Again
blazeWhite (AT)
elevation gain1980 ft.
park/forestNantahala National Forest
ranger districtNantahala Ranger District
90 Sloan Road
Franklin, NC 28734
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.222317, -83.562228 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°13.34, W 83°33.73 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°13'20'', N 35°13'20'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.222317, -83.562228 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°13.34, W 83°33.73 most GPS units use this one
N 35°13'20'', N 35°13'20'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
Ben Creek Road is gravel but fine for low ground clearance vehicles.
Parking Capacity
6-8 vehicles.
Better views along the way in November and December.
Ben Creek Road is closed seasonally from January 1 - April 1.
Very rocky and rooty sections.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (2)
hikethesouth-4 years ago
Amazing Views
This is an excellent section of the AT. Not too difficult but a nice climb to the top of Wayah Bald. Amazing near 360-degree views from the observation tower. Somewhat rocky and rooty but nothing too bad. Lots of moss covered rocks along minor creek crossings.
Medium | Hiked Winter 2019
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