View Full Version : Trip advice - Wasser to Fontana Dam

04-22-2003, 16:03
A group of firends and I were considering doing the AT between Wasser and Fontana Dam, late in July . From what I gather this is a 29 mile hike. Is this trip best done north to south, or south to north, and is 4 days/3 nights a reasonable expectation for novice/intermediate hikers?

What about parking and shuttles? Are they readily available in this area.

I'd appreciate any advice regarding this area, the trail, and any suggested side trips that might be included.

Thanks :banana

04-22-2003, 16:11
Im yankee's partner in crime on this outing..also wouldnt mind any info on fishin as well

04-22-2003, 16:29
Well, no fish between Wesser and Fontana Dam that I am aware of. However, the NPS does publish a brochure of fishing streams in the Smokies. You might ask them for that.

I'd have to ask the people at Fontana Dam about a shuttle. I seem to recall that someone in that area did shuttles.

North to south, or south to north, I suspect that it's a rugged hike no matter which way you go.

4 days/3 nights is pretty laid back by AT standards. Most thru-hikers do it in 2 days/1 night, or possibly 3 partial days/2 nights.

04-22-2003, 16:43
Thanks for the info, thats the type of info I was looking for, I was planning conservatively at first , we could always add more.

so, your telling me most people plan for 10-15 miles a day?

Rebel, with a Cause!
04-22-2003, 17:49
Jeff and Nancy at The Hike Inn do shuttles from Wessar to Fontana. Call them at: 1-828-479-3677

They will take care of your car and everything. Great people to know for anything around Fontana.

Rebel, with a Cause !!

Lone Wolf
04-22-2003, 17:52
Call Jeff & Nancy Hoch at The Hike Inn for area shuttles. 828-479-3677. Take the 4days/3nights if you have the time. Go faster if you feel up to it. Thru-hikers are in a rush, no reason you should be. I would hike from Fontana to Wesser because you have restaurants and such right on the trail when you arrive plus the last 8 miles is basically down hill.

04-22-2003, 17:55
Great info, thanks

04-22-2003, 18:10
very nice..thanks for the info

Im not sure about the resteraunts but Im sure it would be welcome after a few days

04-23-2003, 00:15
Second the vote for Nancy and Ed----darned good people...I did this section this past Dec.Jan.Feb, crossing Cheoh Bald in 8 inches of snow on top, more on either side, we did the Stecoah to Fontana in another snow hike...awesome area...just know that the climb from Wesser to Stecoah, if you go NOBO is a long one, but the climb up Cheoh is SOBO is also a long one- so either direction you will climb and climb and climb.. but if you are like me you are thankful to the Lord for every step, every breath on the AT no matter which direction you take! Good luck and def. post your trip reports here at Whiteblaze....I and many others love to hear them.

04-23-2003, 01:46
I used to hike the AT alot and used to be an avid whitewater kayaker when I lived in GA..I am looking forward to it alot

This will be quite a trip actually..I live in San Diego and am going to take a train out to Indy then ride down with Yankee to AT. Good times will be had Im sure.

04-23-2003, 15:04
Jeff and Nancy Rock they bought that little hotel and have really done a good job getting it going. Yes it is better to hike n to s the Brown fork gap shelter is not a bad place to stay either.

H20buffalo is back in da house!

04-24-2003, 07:46
I think I would go north from Fontana, and yes, it is climbing right off the get go. Whatever way you go, be sure to make time for the view at Shuckstack Tower. On a clear day you can see miles...have a great time

04-24-2003, 10:41
north from Fontana is into the Park isnt it?

What makes that trip better than south to Wesser?

04-24-2003, 12:06
Both are good. If you do 30 or so miles into the Smokys, you'll get to Shuckstack, Rocky Top, Thunderhead, the Narrows, and Clingmans Dome. I like the area south as well. Cheoah has good views and I've got great memories of the late afternoon in Stecoah. The Smokys might be a little more scenic, but you have to stay in shelters. Strangely enough, when I went through last May, the area between Wesser and Fontana was significantly more populated than the park.

04-24-2003, 12:07
thx Chris

<--Fellow hoosier

04-24-2003, 13:22
I would call the Hike Inn and see what is easier for shuttling to find out which direction to go. Needless to say, I would use the Hike Inn's shuttle service.

04-24-2003, 13:53
I've already talked to Nancy on advice from here. Seem's like a very nice lady , they provide NOBO or SOBO shuttles depending on the hikers preference.

I am curious to hear more arguments on the merits of heading north or south out of Fontana though. My understanding is that camping within the park is restricted to shelters only, but between Fontana and Wesser it is less restricted, is that right?

Are the views within the park superior to the SOBO route? Is one more or less strenuous?

What about side trips on either route, anything outstanding to look foward to?

Is a GPS overkill for this trail? I've got an opportunity to pick up one at a reasonable cost.

If you keep answering, I'll keep asking :)

Rebel, with a Cause!
04-24-2003, 21:28
If you plan to do the 30 plus miles going north from Fontana to Clingmans Dome, you will have one problem.

These shelters on this route are by reservation only. And in order to get the reservations, you must call exactly 30 days prior to secure them. The number to call is: 1-865-436-1231

I would do them in this order:

Day one: from Fontana to Mollies Ridge shelter
Day two: Derricks Knob Shelter
Day three: to Clingmans Dome

I will be doing the entire smokies route starting May 11th, making 5 shelter stops on the way, and yes we did get our reservations :)

Good Luck and hope you have fun

04-24-2003, 21:37
I recommend stealth camping anywhere except the GSMNP, there you really should stay in the shelters though they are abysmal....just to minimize the impact...GPS units are fun but abs. uneccessary on the AT....it doesnt matter NOBO or SOBO, you will get a workout either way, see incredible things either way...from Sams Gap to Spivey Gap I have done that section 17 times and it is different each time!

04-24-2003, 22:00
I've enjoyed reading the responses to your question. Several work buddies and myself have exactly this section left to complete the trail from Springer to Davenport Gap at the north end of the Smokies. While I haven't seen this section specifically, I can say that you'll love the area. If the weather cooperates, you'll get some great views. We'll be doing this section sometime in the next couple of months. Either way will be challenging, and depending on the fitness level of some of your lesser experienced hikers, I'd suggest having a conservative plan so that everyone can enjoy their hike. I think, like someone above, that I'd suggest hiking N to S, simply because the 8 miles uphill out of Wesser could be discouraging for new hikers, and damage their spirits (and feet!) for the whole trip. Heading S you'll still start out w/ a challenging 3 mile uphill, but all in all, I think that might be better.

I also love to flyfish, and while there is some fishing available in the area . . . . some folks enjoy the Cherokee area . . . you're not so far from the Chatooga that it is un-doable! Great river, scenic, and my favorite place to fish. It would mean a couple hour or so side trip, though.

Best wishes on a great hike to your group ... & if your luck is like ours, best wishes for some great weather so you actually get to see the views!!

04-24-2003, 22:16
Just to add to some good information:

Could be a rough trip for a complete novice, but do-able in your time frame. Going N to S, f you have to bail out, you could do so at Stekoah Gap, a little more than half way, and before the climb to Cheoah. Hope this doesn't happen; it's just some more info.

Cheoah Bald is a great place to camp in good weather. Maybe someone can post where the spring is there. I can't remember.

If you finish early you could fly fish the Nantahala. I've seen many fishing there. Never seen anyone catch a fish though. Easiest, safest whitewater rafting anywhere, great for beginners. Wesser Bald is a 5 mi. (one way) trip via the old AT. There is a parking area at the trailhead.

For future trips you might want to consider to 30 miles from I-40 to Hot Springs, which goes over Max Patch, a fantastic man-made bald.


04-25-2003, 12:48
I appreciate all the good info people. The north-south direction seems like the choice except for the part where chris said it was populated. I would like to get in some fishin but its not a must...I think on last day or whatever we will get in some rafting though

04-25-2003, 13:19
starting to second guess myself here, anyone have experience on the section from Lemon patch to Davenport, which includes Max Patch? :D

Papa Bear
04-25-2003, 13:37
Originally posted by Groucho
JMax Patch, a fantastic man-made bald.

Just wondering, but aren't all balds man made? Including livestock grazing and fires which in turn are themselves "man made".

Is there such a thing as a natural bald? If so how did it get that way? And if left alone (perhaps for a very long time) would it stay that way?


04-25-2003, 18:31
Papa Bear.

Max Patch was cleared for agriculture. It also served as a landing strip. This is recent, documented history. It is also "maintained" by mowing and perhaps by fire or other means. Definately man-made. I trust someone will correct me if my memory is faulty on this.

The origin of many other balds is not known. Some may have been cleared for pasturage by early settlers. Native Americans may have used fire or other means to clear balds for hunting or religious reasons. In the Smokies only 1 or 2 balds are now maintained. The consensus opinion seems to be that the others will reforest. We'll know for sure in a couple hundred years.

P.S. There are two types of balds, grassy and heath.


About 20 miles from Davenport to Lemon GAP. 35 to Hot Springs from Davenport. There i a 3000' climb from I-40 to Snowbird. After that I don't think it is too bad; others may disagree. Don't know about shuttlers in this area.

04-28-2003, 10:41
To clarify what I said about the Fontana to Wesser section being crowded. I was passing through on a Friday-Saturday. There were four people at Sassafras Gap shelter (?), 12 people + 6 campers at Brown fork shelter, and roughly 5 people at the last one before Fontana. The last is a guess, but, I think close. Two friends stayed there and there were 3 people still there in the morning when I passed through. Contrast this with the Smokies (granted, a Sunday through Wed trip) when I spent most of the nights alone and most of the days along. Except, of course, at NewfoundGap. A large clutch of scouts cleared out of Mt. Cammerer just before I got there and I had it mostly to myself.

12-22-2003, 11:31
I recommend stealth camping anywhere except the GSMNP, there you really should stay in the shelters though they are abysmal....just to minimize the impact...GPS units are fun but abs. uneccessary on the AT....it doesnt matter NOBO or SOBO, you will get a workout either way, see incredible things either way...from Sams Gap to Spivey Gap I have done that section 17 times and it is different each time!

The Trail Guide I am using mentions a restaurant about 1.3 miles from the summit of Bald Mountain in this section of the AT. Is this part of the failed ski resort I have heard about in that area? Also is it better to camp in the shelter or the camp site near the top? We will be there in mid January.