Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unaka Mountain Summit

There's so much to Unaka Mountain I have yet to discover. I'm grateful to Hiking Bill for encouraging me to the hike to the top of Unaka Mountain (elev. 5,180 feet). The Appalachian Trail actually crosses the summit of Unaka, so if you wanted to climb the entire mountain, you could start at either Iron Mountain Gap or Indian Grave Gap and hike 12 miles (Bill describes the hike on his website). But if you're like me, you're asking, isn't there an easier way? Well, yes there is! Bill pointed me to a short trail off of Unaka Mountain Road which connects with the AT 1.35 miles below the summit. From here it's an easy-to-moderately steep and rocky assent (alt. gain of 750 feet) to the magnificent spruce forest which covers the top of Unaka. There are no views or overlooks here, but what you'll find is spectacular. The dense pine trees make for an eerie, mysterious and memorable experience (similar to what you'll find on the AT on the way from Carver's Gap to Round Bald on Roan Mountain -- see here). Click here to see a view of the Red Spruce trees looking up!

Directions: From I-26 take the Erwin Main Street Exit (#36), at the end of the ramp turn east toward town and you will immediately arrive at a stop light. Turn right onto Rt. 107 and drive 1/2 mile, turn left at stop light onto Rock Creek Road (Rt. 395) -- continue on for 6.5 miles to TN/NC line (called Indian Grave Gap) and then take the gravel road to the left (the road is in pretty good shape although it's probably good to have a high clearance vehicle). After 2.1 miles you'll come to a fork, stay left (if you turn right you'll immediately arrive at the Beauty Spot). Continue on for another 2.1 miles to the second sharp switchback turn and park. (If you come to another fork in the road you've reached the Unaka Mountain Overlook --a.k.a. Pleasant Garden-- and have gone too far, go back 0.65 miles). If you park here, you will find a little trail leading into the woods at the sharpest point of the curve. Take this trail and you will immediately come to the AT, then turn left and head up to the top of Unaka 1.35 miles. Map

Click here for a post listing all there is to see and do on Unaka Mountain -- which gives directions and mileage starting from the Unicoi side (Iron Mtn Gap) to the Erwin side (Indian Grave Gap).

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