The first two miles of this rough jeep track continue along a steep grade before slackening for a more pleasant path through the woods.
The Hyatt Ridge Trail begins along Straight Fork Road just upstream from the confluence of Hyatt Creek and Straight Fork. It climbs quickly out of the bottomland flanking Straight Fork and onto a rough jeep track that follows the course of the stream. Initially the grade is moderate, winding through stands of second-growth yellow poplar and sugar maple. During the growing season, encroachments by a virulent strain of stinging nettle crowd the route. Slightly less than a mile above the road, the trail crosses Hyatt Creek, where the grade becomes markedly steeper and oaks and eastern hemlocks enter the mix of tree species.
After crossing the stream, the trail continues for nearly a mile before reaching the spine of Hyatt Ridge. Here, the Hyatt Ridge Trail intersects the western terminus of the Enloe Creek Trail
, then turns right, and climbs out of the gap. After about a half-mile, the grade eases to a pleasant run along the ridgeline before proceeding into a long drop to another gap. The running, nevertheless, remains easy. The woods are fairly open with boles of fallen American chestnut trees scattered across the forest floor.
After a moderate half-mile climb, the trail enters a level bench that marks the southern reach of Hyatt Bald. Here, it intersects the upper terminus of Beech Gap Trail (West)
. From there the Hyatt Ridge Trail circles around the east flank of the bald and into a gentle gradient overrun with weeds and shaded by thin stands of chestnut oak, yellow birch, American beech, and red maple. The trail winds through the gradient for a hundred yards or so before dropping into a shallow basin that harbors Backcountry Camp 44, McGee Spring.
This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here
Yellow poplar, sugar maple, oaks, easter hemlock, spruces, american chestnut, yellow birch, American beech, and red maple are varieties of trees that runners will encounter along this trail.
During the growing season, be on the lookout for a virulent strain of stinging nettle that crowds the trail.