Upper Bald River Wilderness Loop
ElevationAscent: 3,876' 1,181 m
Descent: -3,889' -1,185 m
High: 4,182' 1,275 m
Low: 1,935' 590 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)
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“This loop allows one to explore the newly designated Upper Bald River Wilderness in Southeast TN over 2 or 3 days.”— Richard Harris
Features Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Fishing · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The backpack takes one to two magnificent balds with far distant views, a long ridgeline between TN and NC, and along the Bald River, Brookshire Creek, and Kirkland Creek. Most of the trail follows a segment of the Benton MacKaye Trail, a 300-mile trail from Springer Mountain to the north end of the Smokies.
Just before the Bald River/Brookshire Creek intersection is a nice waterfall on the Bald River locally known as Upper Bald River Falls, and just past the intersection is a crossing of Brookshire Creek just before it joins the Bald River with a small 8-foot waterfall. The pull up the Brookshire Creek Trail to Sledrunner Gap along the BMT is a long uphill haul, but there is a nice campsite about 2/3 of the way up right along Brookshire Creek.
When the you reache Sledrunner Gap, the trail to the left will take one to Beaverdam Bald after about a half mile. The trail to the right is the BMT and crosses over several peaks in a generally downward direction to Sandy Gap after about 6.3 miles. From here, I recommend the backpacker continue on the BMT straight ahead to Six Mile Gap, then right to Waucheese Bald (total distance about 2.5 miles) to a great place to camp on a big open grassy bald. Water is available down the road about a half mile where the road takes a sharp left or one can bring water up from the spring near Sandy Gap a short ways down the Kirkland Creek Trail.
The next morning, return from Waucheesi Bald to Sandy Gap, then take the Kirkland Creek Trail downhill for 4.5 miles to several crossings of the creek then a crossing over the Bald River, all without bridges. Just past the Bald River crossing, you'll reach Bald River Road. Turn right and go a short distance back to your car.
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