Added by Steve Yocom
Distance: 13.5 miles round tripElevation gain: 1,600 ft.Sweeping views of Great Smoky MountainsWildlife - 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.
- Hiking shoes
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