View Full Version : What to expect: Rock Gap trailhead to Fontana Dam

Buffalo Skipper
05-08-2012, 16:12
I will be section hiking this in the fall of 2012. We are looking at doing a little over 10 miles a day, with an easy first and last day and a mid-way overnight at NOC. Though most of us are experienced weekend hikers, this will be our first AT section. We are probably looking at October 20-27ish, which will be past peak colors.

Is there anything particular about this section we should be aware of? Rocky? Water? Shelters? PUDs? Good views? Is it a good idea to pick up a guidebook if we are only doing this short section? Any and all ideas are welcome.

05-08-2012, 16:27
My newbie 21-yo daughter and I covered this section last May at about the same pace. We had a great time. Hopefully you will get some nice weather, as the views from the balds are fantastic (especially Wesser Bald, which offers an exceptional 360-degree view). You can see my trail journal here (http://trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=364109).

Note that there will be few if any supplies available at NOC, but you may be able to send a mail drop to the outfitter (check their hours, and allow at least 5 days for delivery).

You'll have a nice little pull out of Rock Gap, and then a more moderate but considerably longer climb out of Winding Stair Gap (US-60). There are a few nice tent spots at Silers Gap, but water is half a mile down at the shelter.

Your biggest climb will be out of NOC up to Choeah Bald, and then there's a very steep section a mile north of Stecoah Gap.

My guess is that you aren't aware of these locations, in which case I would definitely pick up a guidebook or trail map, as there are a number of scenic viewpoints in this section.

Be prepared for a few PUDS between the Fontana marina and the dam itself, but they're not so bad if you're expecting them.

Buffalo Skipper
05-08-2012, 17:31
Thanks for the link to the journal, Kerosene. I always like to read about other's experiences. Actually I have been to this area a little. I did a dayhike up Albert Mountain a few years ago. And I was not unaware of the elevation change, especially in and out of the Nantahala Gorge. I have the area mapped out on TOPO 8 and have studied the route and profile carefully. But it is one thing to study a map and another to hear what others have experienced with it. I do appreciate the tip on packages to NOC. I have their address and will make sure to send it a full 7 or 8 days in advance of our arrival; I would not expect to resupply beyond what we chose to send, but you never know. Good information, and the journals and photos added and extra degree of understanding.

Gray Blazer
05-08-2012, 19:02
Could be right at peak colors. Could have some cold weather, also. Should be a wonderful hike.

05-08-2012, 23:25
I love that section, have done it numerous times over the years. It also doesn't hurt that I live here.
Here's a link from my Winding Stairs Gap to Fontana hike blog from last June if you are interested:
If you have any specific questions I'll be happy to try and answer them, feel free to PM me.
Happy Trails!

05-09-2012, 10:37
That's a nice section at a great time of year. You may still have fall colors in the lower elevations - I have photos from a mid-November hike in the Smokies that show broad swaths of great fall color down in the valleys, with bare trees on the ridge lines.