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Maddron Bald Loop Professional Review and Guide
"This two-night trip is one of the best (if not the very best) backpacking loops in the entire park! Hike along the lower reaches of Gabes Mountain, passing Henwallow Falls, and enter virgin woodland to camp at Sugar Cove.
Then head up Maddron Bald Trail to Albright Grove, which contains some of the park’s largest trees. Camp along a resonant high-country creek near Maddron Bald, which sports awe-inspiring views both above and below. On the return trip down the rugged Snake Den Ridge Trail, a few more vistas open up on some smaller heath balds. This excursion presents the Smoky Mountains at their finest."
--Johnny Molloy, Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Menasha Ridge Press).
Nice loop, although not without problems. We reached the first night's backcountry site around 11am, and decided to continue on. Upon reaching Polls Gap trail, we discovered that it was closed ("Closed due to unsafe conditions"), a closure not listed on the GSMNP website. We were forced to walk along the road and camp at Balsam Mountain campground. Continuing to hike along the road we reached the 2nd night's campsite before 11am, and continued on. The rest of the trail was downhill, and we easily finished it by the afternoon.
Overall: Campsites badly spaced for even semi-serious hikers, and major trail closure results in badly designed loop. Do not recommend.
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