Day Hike to Hemphill Bald

Rate this Adventure North Carolina Hemphill Bald Trailhead

Added by Steve Yocom

  • Distance: 13.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 ft.
  • Sweeping views of Great Smoky Mountains
  • Wildlife - lots of birds and herds of elk

Hemphill Bald is a quintessential Smoky Mountains vantage point and this moderate loop trail leading to it takes you through beautiful forest and rolling hills. This area is incredible in all seasons - wildflowers in the spring, colorful leaves in the fall, and with bare trees in the winter, the vistas along the way open up for even more sweeping views.

Start your hike at Polls Gap parking lot on Heintooga Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There you'll find the clearly marked trailhead for the Hemphill Bald Trail. Follow this trail along a railroad grade path and follow an old split rail fence that will lead 4.7 miles up to Hemphill Bald. Enjoy the open space and views at Hemphill Bald, then continue along the same trail for a short distance and you'll reach a junction with the Cataloochi Divide Trail. Make a hard left in order to remain on the Hemphill Bald Trail, which you will follow until it ends at the junction with Caldwall Fork Trail. Turn left here to continue your loop, eventually crossing Caldwell Fork Creek. When you reach the Rough Fork Trail, follow it left. You will climb a bit on a pretty steep grade, but it doesn't last long before leveling out and taking you on a nice grassy trail back to the beginning of the loop at Polls Gap.

Driving directions from Asheville: take I-40 West out of town and take exit 27 towards Waynesville. Continue on US 19 through Maggie Valley to Soco Gap. Turn left (south) onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, following signs to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look for a right turn onto Heintooga Ridge Road at milepost 458.2 and drive about 6 miles on this road and you'll hit Polls Gap where you'll find the clearly marked trailhead for the Hemphill Bald Trail.

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • Water
  • Camera
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round


Easy Parking

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!

Added by Steve Yocom

25 years young. Burst at the seems, be what you dream. Living in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Adventuring whenever I can!

More Adventures Nearby

Hike to Hanging Rock

North Carolina / Hanging Rock Visitor Center

Park in the main parking lot for Hanging Rock State Park, and the trailhead can easily be found in the upper parking lot (furthest away from the main building), and is clearly marked.

Kenton Steryous
12 Saves

Camp at Jordan Lake State Park

North Carolina / Jordan Lake State Park, Crosswinds Campground

We passed by Jordan Lake on the way home from a soccer match, and the kids asked if we could camp there before summer's end.

Joshua West
6 Saves

Backpack to Overmountain Shelter in the Roan Highlands

North Carolina / Carvers Gap

Starting from the Carver Gap Parking area (do not leave belongings visible in your vehicle) head North on the Appalachian Trail (cross the road and head up the hill past the kiosk).

Jess Fischer
16 Saves