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Newton Bald Loop Professional Review and Guide
"On this trip, you’ll head up the famed fishing waters of Deep Creek, the origin of many a Smoky Mountain hunting and fishing tale, to camp on a carpet of pine needles at a streamside site beneath a grove of white pines. You will leave the Deep Creek watershed via the steep Martins Gap Trail, then reach and intersection with Sunkota Ridge Trail for some nice ridge walking to a little-used backcountry campsite, 5,000 feet up on Thomas Ridge. Finally, you’ll follow the loop south on the ridge, following Thomas Divide Trail back to Deep Creek."
--Johnny Molloy, Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Menasha Ridge Press).
This loop has few things to offer and some drawbacks. First, it is a great conditioning loop. Day 2 to Newton Bald is grueling and there is little water to be had after the first mile of hiking. Make sure you have plenty of water in your pack on day 2; the springs on the Sunkota Ridge trail may or may not have enough volume to pump some water. There were a couple of positives on this hike. I spotted some wildlife. Day 1 I flushed a turkey near the Burnt Spruce campsite. On Day 2 the views from Newton Bald are very good during the winter with the leaves out of the way. Day 3 was the best from the wilflife perspective; I spotted a huge turkey, he must have weighed 30 pounds! I also flushed two roughed grouse, the first I have ever seen in the Smokeys. All in all a good hike.
I have been to this area 17 different times in as many years. I now live in Colorado and had it not been for the fall color season and the last day of hiking out, this trail would not be a favorite. I felt like I was just hiking to a camp location and that was it. The trail did not offer much else. Newton Bald was no longer Bald and the trail offered few other excitements. The last days journey however was beautiful through to the old indian motor trail. It followed an old growth forest with trees approaching about 150ft in height. The weather was excellent at this time of year as well.
But I prefer unobstructed views the way Gregory Bald offers.
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