Spring was definitely in the air for this 6th Walking With Bartram section of the Bartram Trail from Jones Gap to Hickory Knoll Rd on March 24th, 2023.
The weather was mild, sunny, with very clear blue skies. The morning started off a little chilly in the mid-40’s, but warmed up into the 70’s as the day progressed. Most of the group was stripping off layers and applying sunscreen before we broke for lunch.
The group met bright and early at the Hickory Knoll Road trailhead to get a headcount and organize shuttles to Jones Gap. It’s a bit of a drive up to the Jones Gap trailhead, but a lovely one on a gorgeous day like we had. Once to the top, we prepared for the hike.
As tradition, Brent Martin, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy and William Bartram expert, read a passage from Bartram’s Travels. Following the brief reading, one of our members, Sharon Mandel and local yoga instructor, led the group in a short yoga routine to get everyone loosened up for the hike.
This section of the trail is relatively long at 9.6 miles, according to the North Carolina Bartram Trail Hiking Guide from John Ray. It also has some of the most elevation loss from its starting point at Jones Gap (~4500 ft) to Hickory Knoll Road (~2000 ft).
From Jones Gap to Wolf Rock, the trail is a series of short ups and downs as it runs along the ridge-line of the Fishhawk Mountains. It then begins a steady descent with a couple of additional short climbs around Doubletop Gap and the Pinnacle.
This section has a good bit of notable overlooks, side trails, and other interesting features besides its rich forest. Along this section you’ll find open rock overlooks just off the Jones Gap Trailhead, Jones Knob, Whiterock Gap, Fishawk Mountain, and Wolf Rock. Each of these views are accessed from short side trails, with the exception of Wolf Rock which is right on the trail.
If you have the energy and time to take these side trails, the views will certainly pay off, especially on a clear day. The views from Jones Gap and up the trail a bit to Jones Knob (4622 ft) includes Scaly Mountain and Tessentee Valley.
Taking the Fishawk Mountain spur will give you an expansive view to the west, including Yellow Mountain, if you’re lucky to have a clear view through the trees in the wintertime. Another feature on this spur trail is a plaque honoring William Bartram.
A favorite feature of this section is the old school bus found along the trail, adjacent to a private parcel of land that was once an orchard and farm. The story is the old school bus provided shelter and equipment storage for workers on this remote piece of property.
On the final descent approaching Hickory Knoll trailhead, you’ll encounter some stone steps placed there by the Conservancy years ago. Some of these stone steps were recently moved to Warwoman Dell, so follow the dirt path of switchbacks down to the trailhead.
If you’re interested in joining us for the next section, we have a couple of options planned. Assuming the weather holds up for our late April trip, we plan to kayak down the Little Tennessee River from Hickory Knoll trailhead, using the wildlife conservation meadow to access the river. This will be a 4-5 hour kayak trip down the Little Tennessee River, taking out at the Tassee Shelter on the Greenway.
Following that, we’re planning a shorter day-hike trip on the newest section of the Bartram Trail from Macon County Fairgrounds and Rec Park on Wide Horizon Road through the the Greenway to Main Street. We’ll then continue down Main Street to the Lazy Hiker for refreshments.
More stories from the Bartram Trail
- Bartram Trail Report for April, 2023
- Walking With Bartram Section 6: Jones Gap to Hickory Knoll Rd
- Bartram Trail Reroute: Connecting to the Little Tennessee Greenway (Part 1)
- The Forest That Was: A Bartram Walk Through Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
- Walking With Bartram Section 3: Wilson Gap to Hale Ridge Road