ApproachThe trailhead is located at Mount Sterling Gap on the Cove Creek Road. From I-40 take NC176. Take an immediate right turn onto Cove Creek Road. Once inside the park, travel for about six miles on Cove Creek Road to the well-marked trailhead.
Route DescriptionThe Mount Sterling Trail is a straightforward route up the slopes of Mount Sterling from Mount Sterling Gap. One travels on a very wide, graded trail (that, I suspect, doubles as a jeep road for the Park Service). At one half mile you will come to a saddle where the Long Bunk Trail intersects. Continue climbing for about two miles through forests that begin as typical southern cove hardwoods but which switch over to spruce as you near the 5,000 foot mark. Hike through these rich, dark forests and achieve the ridgeline at about 2.3 miles.
Here the Mount Sterling Trail ends and you take a right on the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail which leads after another one half mile to the summit and fire tower. Back country campsite #38 is located on the summit. During warmer months this hiker/horse camp is extremely popular and reservations are both required and encouraged.
Total elevation gain is almost exactly 2,000 feet. It's a real thigh-burner of a hike.