Bartram Trail Approach to Cheoah Bald
Another less often used to the two Appalachian Trail approaches to Cheoah Bald is the Bartram Trail. The Bartram provides a 5 mile one way, 3000 foot vertical approach to the summit.
The trailhead is a small paved parking lot in the Nantahala Gorge about 1.5 miles west of the Nantahala River put-in at the intersection of US 19 and Wayah Rd. The parking lot is on the north side of the road.
This route follows the Bartram Trail (blazed yellow) for a majority of the hike only joining up with the AT (white blazes) for the last 0.2 miles. The trail leaves the parking lot immediately crossing a set of railroad tracks. There are a number of impromptu camp sites in this area. From there a steep climbs leads you out of Natahala Gorge and drops you into the drainage for Ledbetter Creek. The Bartram Trail proceeds to follow Ledbetter Creek climbing at a moderate grade, mostly following the creek. This section can get pretty wet, especially in spring or after heavy rain.
After about 4 miles, the trail intersects and follows an old FS road and quickly rejoins another trail leading up to the main Cheoah ridge. With about a quarter mile to go the Bartram Trail intersects with the AT for the final approach to Cheoah.
You can either return via the same route, or with the help of a shuttle, descend to Stecoah Gap or the NOC via the AT.
This route is well-maintained, but seldom used. Wear orange during bear season in Oct-Dec as the area around Cheoah is quite popular with bear hunters.
Detailed maps can be ordered from the NC Bartram Trail Society: