Hemphill Bald Trail

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Elevation Gain4,717ft
Trailhead Elevation5,126ft
Elevation Min/Max3305/5554ft
Elevation Start/End5126/5126ft

Hemphill Bald Trail

Hemphill Bald Trail is a hiking and horse trail in Haywood County and Swain County, North Carolina. It is within Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cataloochee Ranch. It is 8.3 miles long and begins at 5,126 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 16.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 4,717 feet. The Polls Gap saddle is near the trailhead. There is also parking. Sheepback Knob and Hemphill Bald and the Garretts Gap, Pine Tree Gap, Maggot Spring Gap, and Sugartree Licks saddles can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Rough Fork Trail, Cataloochee Divide Trail and Caldwell Fork Trail.
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Fayetteville, NC
Pathfinder | 110 pts
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Great trail. I planned and did the whole loop in two days though. I knocked out the first 12 miles the first day and stayed at the lookout tower to camp which was awesome. The first 5.5 mile was simple and scenic with the river, and it was easy to decide to continue on to the top. It was a good push up though, but not too bad. (bring something to relax the muscles like asprin or something to ensure a good nights sleep). It gets cold up there off season of course, and the combination of cold, stiff and sore can make for a miserable night. A couple of relaxers took care of that though. The next day was all downhill. I would do this one again anytime if there weren''t so many to do in the area. Here is a link to the photos I got during my hike. Enjoy.

Hemphill Bald Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"This hike starts high and stays high most of the way as it skirts the park border on Cataloochee Divide. Its highest point, Hemphill Bald, offers great views. Most of the private-land side of the border remains open pasture, as much of the Smokies was a century ago, when Cataloochee Valley farmers would send their livestock to the hills to graze during the summer. The park service has let most of the Smokies balds reforest, and the contrast is striking, as you will find out along this hike. The area is a study in reforestation and land management--where there is no grazing or mowing, the mountain has grown up with trees, despite the short growing season at this altitude." Read more
"This high country ramble travels the backbone of Cataloochee Divide, on the park boundary. Cross knob and gap, reaching the hike’s highest point, Hemphill Bald. Take in sweeping vistas of meadows and mountains. The access for this hike, Heintooga Ridge Road, is open from mid-May through October. Spring can be cool and wet, but when the skies clear, you will enjoy magnificent vistas. Summer can be hazy. Fall is the best choice, with open roads, clear skies, and good weather." Read more
Kevin Adams
"This is one of the best moderate-length loop hikes in the Smokies. The only negative is that some of the views encompass more than you probably wish to see on a “wilderness” hike. From the high ridges, you can see houses, roads, and, every wilderness lover’s favorite—Maggie Valley’s Ghost Town in the Sky. Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives on this hike. The trail surface consists of old forest roads and forest trails, some very rocky. The best season for hiking is in spring, for the beautiful wildflowers." Read more

Trail Information

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nearby City
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Additional Use
Views, Wild Flowers