View Full Version : Novice hiker seeks advice RE: Hot Springs, Natahalah areas... first post

05-04-2016, 10:26
I've been lost in the web for days researching NC, glad to have discovered this site... I live about an hour south of Asheville in Spartanburg County. I hike a fair amount...Table Rock/ Jones Gap/ Dupont... day hikes only... probably the toughest thing I've done is Hospital Rock when I spent about 6 hours, 20 miles maybe... I'm 48 and in decent shape, in other words. An increasing desire to be in the woods, etc. I am developing a PROFOUND ADMIRATION for those of you who spend days and weeks and months and years and hell some of you it seems a lifetime in the woods, on the Appalachian Trail. Remarkable.

My wife and I had a weekend in Hot Springs a few years ago- it was a random choice, a gift from some fellow teachers. Didn't know a thing about it. Drove to Maxpatch just because we saw it mentioned in the guest journal at the cabin we were staying in. My God it blew my mind. I've seen some nice views but nothing like that.

My friends, I haven't spent the night in the woods in 35 years, never by myself, and although I think I need to, quite honestly at this point I would probably prefer to hike all day long and bed down in a modest hostel, etc. Could I spend a night or 2 in a tent if I had to? I'd like to say sure I could and I know I need to, but I also need to be honest enough to admit the idea unsettles me slightly, and also my wife isn't crazy about the idea.

I would appreciate any advice/stories at all but I do have a handful of questions. I have no doubt my questions are bursting with naivete and I apologize in advance and thank you for your patience. Some matters are easier to research online than others.

What's the walk like from the top of Maxpatch to Hot Springs? Is this a 20 mile walk? Is it a day hike to downtown?
Is Hot Springs a good base to explore for 2-3 days, walking back to town at the end of the day... loops, etc?

I'm not going to string together 3 nights in a row sleeping in hostel type environments, am I? It's going to be camp or turn tail and get back to town, right?

I like the looks of the Natahala Outdoor Center particularly the bunkhouses and the camping platforms that are already in place... is it realistic, for example, to walk to a hostel in Aquone?

It's been a lot of fun researching this stuff but that only gets you so far. Again, any thoughts concerning anything I've mentioned or anything else for that matter greatly appreciated. I think I'm slowly figuring out that in order to have the experience I truly seek, I probably need to get equipped and prepared so I'm comfortable camping out there.

In the meantime I would certainly like to be made aware of any hostel to hostel opportunities that may exist.

Thanks a million and all the best!

05-04-2016, 10:37
Hot Springs is a great trail town, really one of the finest. The trail (AT) in that neighborhood is scenic and mellow, you can't go wrong there, either north or south. Plus, there are plenty of other things to do and see. Like, the hot springs, or rafting on the river. Sunnybank Inn is the place to stay, probably one of the coolest "hostels" on the AT. Really, a bit too classy to be lumped in with all the others. ;)

The only caveat is that there was a very recent forest fire near town, and I don't know how that's affected the AT in that neighborhood. Last I heard, Hot Springs was jammed with hikers trying to move northward. I hope they're all on their way again by now.

Gambit McCrae
05-04-2016, 10:57
First, Welcome! :welcome

Second- Get yourself a guide book or two. They are cheap and will help a ton. I rec the thru hikers companion and awal guide books. I would use these for planning, and for the trail if you have a smartphone, checkout the guthooks app. it is 8.99 per section of trail, each section is several hundred miles. about 64 bucks for the entire trial(not really needed at this point for you).

Hot springs is the perfect starter town to do some slack packing out of. it is close to you, and has everything you need to become comfortable on the trail for long day hikes. My suggestion- Sounds like you have good hiking experience and the 20 mile hike from MP to Hot Springs is doable. Start at sunrise and spend most of your day 1 foot in front of the other. When you become confident in being on the trail all day, then look at sleeping in the woods :) when I started out I FORCED myself to solo hike, solo night hike, solo camp, night hike in the rain, night hike till the sun rose..etc. It helped me get over the fears of what I know was watching me a lot of the time. And now that I survived(duhh), I am quite comfortable in the woods.

Shuttles are your savior on the trail. In hot springs you have bluff mountain outfitters and they are reasonable and on time. They can shuttle you to MP early as you want on a Saturday and you can walk back to town during the day. Erwin, Roan Mountain, Hampton, Dennis Cove, Damascus, Neel Gap(jumping around the trail), Dicks Gap, Fontana Village, Gburge...all towns mentioned have shuttle services, lodging, and the AT at the backdoor of town. If you don't have any wish to see every foot of the trail, you could spend years traveling to one town to another on the weekends or weeks at a time day hiking. If you want to see the whole trail, I would suggest getting a tent :) lol

Hot springs shuttle req: Bluff Mountain outfitters
Hot Springs lodging req: Laughing heart hostel and BandB.

05-04-2016, 11:54
The AWOL guide book Gambit referred to can be purchased here: www.theatguide.com
So Max Patch blew your mind? Randall, there's so much more to see! But be careful, it gets addictive!
I highly recommend that you spend a little time on the trail going north from Carver's Gap (near Roan Mtn, TN) in June. The rhododendrons are awesome. The views of the surrounding hills from the balds (Round Bald, Jane Bald, Hump Mtn, Little Hump) are stupendous.
Find a weekend to spend in Grayson Highlands in southwest Virginia. More lovely balds, with the addition of "wild" ponies.
After a couple of weekends on the trail, if you find yourself infected with the AT bug, there's a lot more to explore. Fourteen states, 2200 miles of trees and grass and hills and rocks waiting for your eyes.
If sleeping in a tent isn't appealing to you, plan to sleep in the shelters along the way. They are rustic and dirty, but they're still a welcome sight to many a tired backpacker. (You still need to carry a tent or tarp just in case the shelter is full, or you can't get to the shelter in the time you have available.)

05-04-2016, 12:20
thanks a million!

Alleghanian Orogeny
05-05-2016, 11:26
The wife and I have visited regularly if not frequently over the last several years. Hiking, backpacking, paddling, off-highway backroads/trail driving, hanging out in town during the evening are all favorite activities, as is an hour or two soak over in the hot springs tubs. Base camping in Hot Springs is a great idea. We like bringing our little camper and booking a riverside campsite at the Hot Springs Resort campground right on the edge of town.

Suggest picking up a copy of National Geographic's Trails Illustrated folding map for the French Broad River and Nolichucky River areas (one map). That map covers the AT, most named/numbered side trails, highways, county roads, and Forest Service Roads from I-40 to north of Erwin. There are some nice loop trails up NC 212 between NC 208 and the TN line at Devils Fork Gap.