Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hemphill Bald Loop in the Smokies

My friend suggested the 13 mile Hemphill Bald loop in the Smoky Mountain National Park, and this turned out to be an incredibly fun trip.   A few days before our trip, a big storm hit the western part of the park and caused a lot of damage but I confirmed with the ranger station that this area didn't see any storm damage so we were lucky we didn't have to cancel.  The weekend turned out to be nice and cool up at 5,000 feet, and once again we got lots of solitude-- only two couples out dayhiking the first day, but no one else at camp or the second day.

After a slight detour for filling out a backcountry permit at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, we parked at Polls Gap, and started on the Hemphill Bald Trail.  Wildflowers were gorgeous along the ridge, especially the turk's cap lilies and rhododendrons.
Rhododendron tunnel on the Hemphill Bald Trail
Old fence built by the CCC
Fly poison
The trail near the bald was overgrown with dense, tall brush.  We changed into our long underwear to protect our legs from scratchy briers and itchy plants.
Guess who always packs long underwear even when the forecast is in the 90's?
Hemphill Bald is adjacent to a ranch.  We crossed over the fence, dodged cow patties, and took a rest on a big downed tree.
Backpacking is such hard work.
Campsite #41, which doesn't need a reservation, was large and near a stream lined with wildflowers and blooming rhododendrons.

The next day we passed by the Big Poplars.
The last part was uphill on loose rocks, and this trail was more difficult because it has seen lots of damage from horses.

Overall, it was a great trip and we'll have to go back to the Smokies again soon!


  1. Wow, what a different atmosphere than via the AT. Love that tree!

  2. It sure was a unique, special corner of the park. Never would have suspected...