Located along the Appalachian Trail on the border of TN and NC, Big Bald offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Smokies, Mount Mitchell and Unaka Mountain. Ridge upon ridge can be seen from this 5,516 foot summit -- if it weren't so hazy on the day we visited, I'd be able to show you that Big Bald offers some of the best views you'll find of the Appalachian Mountains anywhere. You can hike in on the AT, but there are no public access points nearby (if you know of any please let us know!). The best and easiest way to see the sights at Big Bald is to arrive using the access road located within the gated community of Wolf Laurel on the NC side. The security guard at the gate was very helpful in letting us in and pointing the way.
We walked first up to Big Stamp, an adjacent bald, and enjoyed the views. The photo above shows Duke on the Appalachian Trail leading the way to Big Bald in the distance (click photos to enlarge). As we made our way to Big Bald we heard the unmistakable sound of bagpipes wafting over the hills. What a perfect place to hear bagpipes! When we arrived on top of the bald, we met Brian Ogburn (right) and his wife who were visiting Wolf Laurel from Winnsboro, South Carolina. Thankfully he brought his bagpipes to serenade us lucky hikers. Thanks, Brian, for sharing your talent and for making our visit to Big Bald unforgettable.
Directions: Take exit 3 off of I-26 (on the NC side) and follow the signs to Wolf Laurel Resort. Once at the gate proceed straight on Wolf Laurel Road for 1.7 miles, turn left on Big Bald Road and continue up the mountain for 2 more miles (the last 1.3 miles will be gravel). Park at the gate and proceed on foot for 1/4 mile. The gravel road will intersect with the AT, to the right is Big Stamp, and to the left is Big Bald.
Update 5/30/09 - Drove up to the gate at Wolf Laurel and was turned away by a security guard who said that the owners of this private property were insisting that visitors not be permitted on the property under any circumstance. So I guess if you want to see this natural treasure, you need to hike in 6.5 miles (one way) from Sam's Gap on the AT. I wish they'd come up with a system where, on certain days, between certain times, license plates are written down and a small fee paid -- wouldn't that keep out the riffraff?