13 Miles – Hard
Sam’s Gap to Big Bald is a strenuous 13 mile out-and-back hike on the Appalachian Trail with amazing 360 degree views at the summit.
The hike begins on the trail adjacent to the parking lot on the south side of the I-26 highway overpass. Follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail on the gravel path as the path begins the gradual ascent into the forest.
At approximately 1 mile, hikers will begin the steepest portion of the hike that is 0.9 miles in length to the summit of West Street Gap Peak at 4,440 feet. The trail opens up to a large, grassy field with mountainous views and hikers will be able to see Big Bald in the distance. At nearly 2 miles into the hike, this is a great spot to drink some water, have a snack and enjoy the view before continuing to Big Bald.
The trail descends back into the forest with a series of switchbacks until crossing Street Gap Road at 2.3 miles into the hike. Continue following the white blazes.
At mile 4 the trail becomes moderately steep as the hike begins a challenging ascent for 1 mile. Several side trails intersect with the Appalachian Trail in this section that lead to utility areas as well as side trails within the private Wolf Laurel Community. Stay on the white blazed Appalachian Trail.
At 5.8 miles hikers will begin the final ascent to the Big Bald summit. The trail becomes more steep in this final section and soon opens up into a large, lush field.
Continue climbing and following the white blazes until you reach the official summit of Big Bald. The summit is 5,516 feet high and is the tallest peak in the Bald Mountains. The peak of Big Bald offers amazing 360 degree views of the Appalachian Mountains and is the turn-around point for this hike.
Be sure to drink some water, have a snack, take some photos and enjoy this moment before beginning the descent of this challenging hike. The summit is 6.5 miles from Sam’s Gap so at this point you’re officially halfway done! When ready, return to the white blazed Appalachian Trail that you hiked up from and begin your descent back down to Sam’s Gap.
Note: This hike is not for inexperienced hikers. Sam’s Gap to Big Bald via the Appalachian Trail has very steep portions, is 13 miles long and can take at least 5-6 hours to complete.
Driving from Asheville: Take I-26 W towards Weaverville for 25 miles. Take exit 3 and turn right onto Bear Branch over the bridge. At the next intersection turn left on US 23A. In 3 miles you’ll reach the I-26 overpass, a parking area and the Trailhead.