OverviewThis mountain is the county highpoint of Madison county NC and one of the few county highpoints in the North Carolina mountains on private property. Like most balds in the Southern Appalachians, the views from the summit are outstanding. Looking the west, the eastern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) can be seen; Mt Sterling, Big Cattaloochee, Mt Guyot ,and down the ridge to Mt Cammerer. Past the Smokies one can trace the path of the AT along Snowbird Mt, Max Patch, Tennessee Bluff and beyond. This is a great hike to a view not very well known to area hikers. Highpointers and local Appalachian trail clubs are the most frequent visitors.
East of the Bald,the route is from Boyd Cove Roads is about 6-8 miles roundtrip and involve over 2000 foot elevation gain. These route follows old logging skids, have many turns, and a map/compass or GPS is recommended. The USGS 7.5 minute quads are Fines Creek and Sandymush.
The route from Boyd Cove Road begins at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center (LBEEC). From the TH the route climbs to Chestnut Gap and traverse the ridge SW to Little Sandymush and Sandymush.
( I have also summit end via Crab Orchard Fields. The land on ridge dropping to east has been subdivided with an improved road. I have not been up here in 3 years)
Getting thereFollow various roads west off NC 63 and travel past the community of Sandymush to the trailhead. This is NW of Asheville NC. The tract of land that both of these routes traverse is owned by the LBEEC. The director is Paul Gallimore, who can be contacted at the center for permission to hike. He does ask for a $10 donation to help with costs of trail maintainance. Persons may pick fruit, for cost; these include apples, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries (in season) The drive from NC 63 to the trailhead is confusing and directions can be obtained from Paul (828-683-3662). The Center acreage is roughly approximated on the south by Randell Cove Rd, on the east by Boyd Cove Rd, and the ridgeline that is the boundary of Haywood, Buncombe and Madison counties. This ridgeline includes Sandymush and Little Sandymush Balds. This tract is the watershed of Bald Creek (see topo)
Red TapeThe recommended contact is listed above. I would avoid hiking during hunting season. Paul Gallimore would appreciate a report on your trip; including signs of wildlife and 4 wheelers. He would also like you to visit the center on Boyd Cove Rd. Below are some pictures from the center. Various parcels of land have been protected with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The area between Crabtree and Sandymush Balds is a high priority area because of the lack of conservation easement.
When To ClimbAnytime except summer will have less undergrowth. Because of the elevation, summer heat shouldn't be too intense.
CampingEvidence of a campsite is seen on route up and the summit. I'm sure Paul would allow camping on Center land, with permission. Although the lower route follows a creek, I am unaware of any water sources on summit ridge.
Mountain ConditionsSnow levels can be aproximated by snow fall amounts in the GSMNP
(865-436-1299 ext 630) and Mt Mitchell State Park (828-675-4611). Or call Paul at the center. Winter in the SE can be unpredictable. One may be hiking in shorts and a t-shirt in January or a foot+ of snow in March.
Miscellaneous InfoOther mountain counties in NC with privately owned summits are: Allegheny (Catherine Knob), Ashe (The Peak), Watauga/Caldwell (Calloway Peak AKA Grandfather Mt), Buncombe (Potato Knob), Polk (Tryon Peak), and Cleveland (Benn Knob).
The only privately owned highpoint in the Tennessee mountains is Johnson county (Snake)
Some of the pics aren't great but when all you have is a disposable camera with 400 speed film; well , you make do.