Sam’s Gap on the Appalachian Trail near Mars Hill, North Carolina
Sams Gap Access Point is the closest accessible place on the Appalachian Trail to the Mars Hill area or the route on I 26 from Tennessee into North Carolina. It has one of the nicer parking areas for Trail access in Madison County. There is a nice hike for under 2 miles going south to High Rock for a good view.
Going north toward Spivey Gap, Big Bald Mountain (6.5 miles) affords another spectacular 360° view from a high elevation. Big Bald is the highest elevation in Madison County at 5516'. From Sams Gap on the Appalachian Trail, Devils Fork Gap is 8.2 miles and Spivey Gap (in Tennessee) is 13.6 miles.
Sites on the Trail from Sams Gap:
2 miles hiking south to Devils Fork is High Rock which provides a good view when not overgrown with summer vegetation
6.5 miles hiking north to Spivey Gap is Big Bald Mountain where you have 360° views from an elevation of 5516' which is the highest in Madison County
Driving Directions to Parking: GPS Location: N 35° 57.133’ W082° 33.652’
From Mars Hill: Take I 26 toward Tennessee to Exit 3. At the bottom of the ramp, turn right onto Bear Branch Road and then left onto NC Highway 23A. Stay on NC Highway 23A for 3.1 miles for Parking Access on the left side of the highway just before the I 26 overpass.
Hiking the Trail:
To hike the trail north to Spivey Gap ( 13.6 miles), cross the highway to the gate for the Trail. This trail goes to Spivey Gap which is the next parking access point but is in Tennessee.
To hike the trail south to Devils Fork Gap (8.2 miles), walk under the I 26 overpass to the trail on the left side of the highway. Go up the road and look for the signs on the left side.