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BMT: Segment 16a-16b (Sandy Gap to Sledrunner Gap)



6.0 mile 9.7 kilometer point to point
85% Runnable


Ascent: 1,878' 572 m
Descent: -504' -154 m
High: 3,962' 1,208 m
Low: 2,588' 789 m


Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 30% (17°)


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Trail shared by Richard Harris

The Benton MacKaye Trail section from Sandy Gap to Sledrunner Gap.

Richard Harris

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For more information, visit the Benton MacKaye Trail Association's website.


Points of Interest along this section: BMT trail maintainers jokingly call this section the “Heart of Darkness” because it is difficult to access with heavy chainsaws and brush cutters. Its deep forests and remote solitude make it even more attractive to runners who are not burdened by tools. The elevation climb from Sandy Gap north can make the trail fairly difficult to traverse. It is best to run this section from north to south since it is mostly downhill and thus is considerably easier. Especially during the winter there are great views off the sides of the mountain both into NC and TN and sightings of bear and boar are common.

Trail Description: From Sandy Gap at mile 137.6 (WP 33), head to the right (northeast) up the narrow rutted road. Be careful not to take the new logging road to the left of the rutted BMT route. This stretch is quite steep. At the top of this steep section, turn left off the roadbed onto the less strenuous trail around the left side of the ridge and down into Hipps Gap, then up the right side of the next ridge to Moss Gap at mile 139.5 (WP 43). Make a sharp left hairpin turn up a steep trail to the top of Hazelnut Knob at mile 140.0 (WP 44). Descend to an unnamed gap at mile 140.3 (WP 45). Blue blazes lead to a nice campsite with a spring about 0.1 miles off to the NC side at this gap (WP 46). Head up the ridgeline to Round Top at 141.5. Be careful not to take the trail created by OHV traffic down the right NC side of the ridge on top of Round Top. A spring marked with blue blazes is present close to the trail at mile 141.6 in a small gap between the two knobs of Round Top. The trail then heads on down the ridgeline, then back up steeply to Rocky Top at mile 143.5 (WP 50). Sledrunner Gap (WP 51) is the next gap past Rocky Top, at mile 143.9. The BMT cuts left down the Brookshire Creek drainage, but going straight will lead you steeply uphill to Beaverdam Bald (WP 52) in another 0.5 miles. The bald is accessible by road and has ample vehicle parking space.

Campsites: LNT primitive campsites are abundant, but the best is at the gap just north of Hazelnut at mile 140.3 (WP 46). An excellent spring is close by.

Water Sources: Water is scarce, only reliably available at mile 140.3 (WP 46, A) and 141.6 (WP 48, A). The trail to these two springs are marked with blue diamond blazes. If dry, go down the draw until you reach water. Water is sometimes available near Moss Gap (WP 49, B).

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