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  1. #1
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    Default Hazel Creek In Winter

    Hey y'all, looking for some intel on Hazel creek in winter. Looking to do a loop with the A.T. by taking a boat to Proctor then up hazel to Spence. Most interested in the water crossings, trail marking etc. Hoping that most of everything is pretty frozen in January. We've done a bunch of winter camping, but have avoided the Smokies because I hate staying in shelters in the Winter, but we can't avoid it any longer!

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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    winter in the smokies can be hit or miss...

    one week can be nice and sunny and fairly warm and the next can be a snow storm...

    i would not count on things being frozen though........

    and on hazel creek----there are no shelters to stay in....but you'll have that one at spence to stay in---unlesss you plan mileage not to stay there...

    also---might wanna make sure the boat shuttle is running that time of year----they may shut down for the season.....

    worse comes the worst----you can still hike over to hazel without a boat.....


    hazel creek is an old roadbed til the middle part when it really goes up the hill but it will be easy to follow.......

    and once off the roadbed----there will be a few creek crossings but nothing too bad unless rain and water is high.....

  3. #3
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    Digger,
    Care to be a little more specific on the loop you are thinking of? Because you can't get to Spence from Hazel Creek, you can't make a loop out of "just" Hazel Creek and the A.T., and many of the loops that include Hazel Creek, the A.T., and Spence in winter would be beyond the capabilities of many hikers with just a single night in the back country.

    But to go ahead and discuss JUST Hazel Creek...
    All crossings of Hazel Creek between the old town of Proctor and junction with Cold Spring Gap Trail are bridged. Most other crossings of Hazel Creek up to Welch Ridge are fords (not rock hops) unless the water levels are VERY low.

    I hiked Hazel Creek between Welch Ridge and Cold Spring Gap this weekend. The first two or three crossings were rock-hops. But after that, everything was a ford mid-shin to knee deep... and I believe it had been a week since GSMNP saw any rain.

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    Because you can't get to Spence from Hazel Creek


    going up jenkins ridge puts one at spence....

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    i figured OP was doing a loop by taking shuttle over to hazel-----hazel to spence.......then AT back to dam...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    going up jenkins ridge puts one at spence....
    Yeah, but OP didn't mention Jenkins Ridge... nor did he mention Welch Ridge, Eagle Creek, or any other path that connects Hazel Creek to the A.T. that THEN gets you to Spence... he simply said Hazel to Spence.

    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i figured OP was doing a loop by taking shuttle over to hazel-----hazel to spence.......then AT back to dam...
    Fair enough...
    But I figured the OP was doing a loop using Hazel Creek, Welch Ridge, the A.T., and since staying at Spence, would need to use Eagle Creek and Lakeshore to complete the loop back to Proctor.

    Of the two, your sounds more plausible, but the lack of details leaves it open to interpretation.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i figured OP was doing a loop by taking shuttle over to hazel-----hazel to spence.......then AT back to dam...
    This is our intended route: Proctor, Hazel Creek, Silers, Fontana. I'm very familiar with the A.T in the park, but not with Hazel. We've done about 11 winter hikes, Mt Mitchell, Mt Rogers, Dolly Sods, Art Loeb etc. many nights below 0.

    Just wanted to know if I'll be able to stick with the trail (Hazel) in deep snow as it crosses the creek a bunch. I get that you don't know my skills or experience so you'll have to speculate.....

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    i'll speculate and say that there wont be "deep snow"..........

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    Digger,

    I hate to say it, but I'm still confused.
    THhiker thinks you are connecting Hazel Creek and the A.T. via Jenkins Ridge.
    But your last post makes mention of Silers... which suggests you are connecting Hazel Creek and the A.T. via Welch Ridge.

    If you are using Jenkins Ridge, then Hazel Creek is a non-issue. It's a maintained roadway with bridges at every major creek crossing. You can even see the bridges in Google Earth if you set the Imagery Date to 4/2013. The path from Proctor to Spence Field is about 15 miles and about 3,000' elevation gain. The path from Spence to Fontana is a little more than 15 miles, and perhaps the biggest challenge (if the shuttle runs) is the shorter day light hours in winter.

    If you are using Welch Ridge, then you have more than a half dozen fords of Hazel Creek and about 18 miles to get to Silers Bald Shelter, and about 3,500' in elevation gain, plus another dozen miles (and 1,500' of up-n-downs) along the A.T. to get to Spence.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i'll speculate and say that there wont be "deep snow"..........
    I would agree...
    If you take a look at the historical imagery of any of the GSMNP web cams and pick a random date in the middle of winter odds are that there won't be snow. When it does snow (and it almost certainly will... likely several times at higher elevations), the climate average is such that even at Clingman's Dome, the weather usually gets above freezing, and therefore the snow only tends to be around for a couple of days to a week.

    But of course the winter care-taker at LeConte has reported snow well over a foot deep at times (but that's unusual, not the norm).

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Digger,

    I hate to say it, but I'm still confused.
    THhiker thinks you are connecting Hazel Creek and the A.T. via Jenkins Ridge.
    But your last post makes mention of Silers... which suggests you are connecting Hazel Creek and the A.T. via Welch Ridge.

    If you are using Jenkins Ridge, then Hazel Creek is a non-issue. It's a maintained roadway with bridges at every major creek crossing. You can even see the bridges in Google Earth if you set the Imagery Date to 4/2013. The path from Proctor to Spence Field is about 15 miles and about 3,000' elevation gain. The path from Spence to Fontana is a little more than 15 miles, and perhaps the biggest challenge (if the shuttle runs) is the shorter day light hours in winter.

    If you are using Welch Ridge, then you have more than a half dozen fords of Hazel Creek and about 18 miles to get to Silers Bald Shelter, and about 3,500' in elevation gain, plus another dozen miles (and 1,500' of up-n-downs) along the A.T. to get to Spence.
    Its ok, sorry to be confusing. We've been thinking about both routes so I could have confused them, One up Jenkins Ridge (or eagle) to Spence and one up Hazel Creek/Welch ridge at Silers. We'd then hike back to the Dam. I'm less concerned with Jenkins because of the lack of water crossings and I've done that trail once although it was a long time ago. I've never done Hazel Creek however so I wanted opinions on that hike in January.

    Thanks yall

  12. #12
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    For those not familiar with Eagle Creek, it has about 16 deep water crossings between Lakeshore and immediately past CS97. During times of normal water levels, they are all about knee deep (the last one above CS97 is rock hoppable depending upon water levels). There's more water crossings higher up, but I believe they are all rock hops... but the upper section includes the "steepest quarter mile" in the entire park.

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    There's more water crossings higher up, but I believe they are all rock hops..


    yeah....

    after that last one leaving 97-----rockhoppable......

    unless there's a raging storm...

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    For those not familiar with Eagle Creek, it has about 16 deep water crossings between Lakeshore and immediately past CS97. During times of normal water levels, they are all about knee deep (the last one above CS97 is rock hoppable depending upon water levels). There's more water crossings higher up, but I believe they are all rock hops... but the upper section includes the "steepest quarter mile" in the entire park.
    So Hazel creek isn't that bad?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Digger'02 View Post
    So Hazel creek isn't that bad?
    Like I mentioned in post #9, Hazel Creek has about a half dozen fords. Based on my limited experience with both Eagle Creek and Hazel Creek, the Hazel Creek fords are just a little more shallow than Eagle Creek.

    The other difference between Hazel and Eagle is that Eagle Creek fords are on the lower portion where the trail starts off feeling almost level all the way to campsite 97 where the last wet-feet ford is. Hazel Creek fords are on the upper sections of the trail where you might be climbing 500' per mile.

  16. #16

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    I would say Hazel Creek isn’t that bad. Sounds like you’re fine with the cold weather fords and your primary concern is losing the trail; as mentioned, the lower section of Hazel is a wide gravel road, at a certain point above the last campsite single track trail begins and I’ll say that though I’ve never found it difficult to follow, I did run into a fellow last year that came back down and went a different way because he couldn’t figure out where the trail went. I questioned him for a while trying to figure out where he lost it and I guessed it was somewhere above the cascade (the beautiful one with the illegal campsite near its base) and just before the first big switchback as you ascend. Regardless, that was in late spring and it was probably overgrown with weeds. I would say that during the time of year you are looking at it should not be overgrown. But there are several switchbacks to watch out for.

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    I would agree with PatmanTN that I don't recall anything difficult about trying to follow Hazel Creek.

    But the near-by Cold Spring Gap trail... that one has a few points where the trail becomes a touch difficult to follow. But only because most of the trail is just rock, and when the near-by creek has spilled over onto the trail, you sometimes think you've lost the trail because it seems like you've been dumped into the creek and you can't find where the trail continues on the other side (because it doesn't... you stay in what looks like the creek).

    The only other thing I can think to comment on is that parts of Welch Ridge are currently overgrown... to the point you can't see the trail except right at your feet. But because the trail is compact dirt, you never totally loose the trail because nothing is growing in the compact dirt... But it does mean you're having to constantly use your hiking stick to push the growth aside to get through. But I figure that aspect of the trail would be less of an issue come winter.
    IMG_20190901_140739.jpg
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 09-04-2019 at 16:58.

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    But the near-by Cold Spring Gap trail... that one has a few points where the trail becomes a touch difficult to follow.


    that trail was my last one to finish the 900....

  19. #19

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    just now reading this, Digger. I see no reason not to hike from Proctor all the way up Hazel if you can get a shuttle across the lake. then continue west on the AT either to descend via Eagle if you like more cold wet feet and legs, or continue all the way out the AT across Fontana dam. If no shuttle boat, then you will have to make longer loop from the dam along Lakeshore to get to Hazel.

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