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blueBlack BMT: Segment 19a-19e (Tapoco Lodge to Fontana Dam)

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17.0 mile 27.4 kilometer point to point
87% Runnable


Ascent: 2,972' 906 m
Descent: -2,831' -863 m
High: 3,218' 981 m
Low: 1,145' 349 m


Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 57% (30°)


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Trail shared by Richard Harris

The Benton MacKaye Trail section from Tapoco Lodge to Fontana Dam.

Richard Harris

Features River/Creek · Views

Section Of

Need to Know

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


Points of Interest along this section: Highlights of this section are the Little Tennessee River with views down into the Little Tennessee Gorge and up into the Great Smoky Mountains. This section was part of the original AT until 1947 when the AT was rerouted over Fontana Dam. Portions of this section are on private land and property owned by Brookfield Renewables. Please do not remove any rebar or surveyor's tape in this area. The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee River holds a conservation easement to protect the land near the river. Cheoah Dam (The Fugitive movie with Harrison Ford) is 0.5 miles north on US 129 and is worth the side trip to see it.

Trail Description: From the Tapoco Lodge gate, follow US129 (mile 179.1, WP104) south for 100 yards to Meadow Branch Road at mile 179.2 (WP105). Just up the road, you'll see a bridge crossing the creek at the James F. Burchfield Trailhead, named to honor the FS employee who fought for years to keep the Yellow Creek Mountain Trail as an active trail. Cross this bridge and head up through a series of switchbacks to the ridgeline and follow this ridgetop trail to Old Field Gap Road at mile 181.0 (WP107). Cross the road and head up the gravel road FS251 past the gate (beware of logging trucks). A short way up this road at mile 181.5 (WP 108), turn left off the road onto the BMT and back up to the ridgetop. You'll touch the FS road again at miles 182.2 and 182.7. At mile 183.4 you'll reenter the FS road (WP 109) and follow it to mile 183.9 to the end of the road (WP 110). The trail goes off the end of the turnaround steeply downhill. At mile 184.4 you'll reach the Powerline Road (WP 111). Turn right and follow this dirt road around underneath the power lines to where the trail again leaves the road (WP 128) and goes to Kirkland Gap at mile 184.7 (WP 112). It is very easy to become confused here, but continue heading east on the ridge. Do not take the gravel roads headed down the hill. At mile 186.3 you'll pass by an old microwave tower (WP 113) and at mile 186.5 you'll reach the peak of Yellow Creek Mountain. At mile 186.9 (WP 114) Lookout Rock is an outcrop with great views toward the Smokies. At mile 187.1 at Green Gap (WP 115), turn left off the ridge and follow this trail to Fontana Village Lodge at mile 188.8 (WP 116).

Campsites: There are a few possible campsites on this section. At mile 180.8 there is a side trail to a dry campsite (WP 117). At mile 182.2, 182.7, and 183.4 one could camp by the FS road and another at WP 129 on the FS Road 0.4 mi off the trail.

Water Sources: The only water along this stretch is from Meadow Branch (D) and near the campsites at WP 118 and 129, C.


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