Benton Mackaye #2-02


The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) follows a route from Springer Mountain, Georgia nearly 300 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).  Signs are posted, but please exercise caution.  Camping is allowed anywhere along the trail, except at trailheads.  There are no shelters on the trail and it is considered more rustic and primitive than the Appalachian Trail.  Expect to see few, if any, other hikers.  Route finding skills are mandatory, as blazes are not allowed in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.  On the Cheoah Ranger District, the BMT trail starts at the Mud Gap Trailhead on the Cherohala Skyway and heads northerly through a gravel quarry.  Past the quarry, the trail crosses FS Road 217, then climbs until it crosses the Cherohala Skyway at the Unicoi Overlook parking area.  The trail exits the parking area at the west end and descends over a bridge, then climbs to the Beech Gap State Line.  The trail then follows the road to Strawberry Knob, then continues to Cold Spring Gap.  At this point, follow Trail 54A, Stratton Bald Alternate to the western shoulder of Bob Bald.  The trail then joins the Stratton Bald Trail, TR 54 and turns east to Bob Bald, an open area with great views to the south.  The trail then continues east to the Haoe Lead Trail Junction, TR 53.  The trail follows the Haoe Lead Trail to Naked Ground, a popular camping spot.  Water is available a short distance down the hill on the Slickrock Creek Trail.  The trail then follows the Haoe Lead Trail along the ridge to Haoe Knob.  The trail continues on the Hangover Lead Trail TR 56 along the ridge and descends steeply to Big Fat Gap.  From the Big Fat Gap Trailhead, the BMT exits on the Windy Gap Trail TR 400 to its junction with the Nichols Cove Trail TR 44, then continues downhill to Nichols Cove, a great camping area with water.  The trail then follows the Yellow Hammer Gap Trail TR49 to its intersection with the Ike Branch Trail, TR 45.  The trail continues uphill to Yellow Hammer Gap, and then follows the Tapoco Trail to the Tapoco Lodge.  Leaving the Tapoco Lodge, the trail turns right, out the gate and southerly on Route 129 to Meadow Branch Road and the Burchfield Trailhead.  About a mile from the trailhead is one of the most beautiful overlooks on the entire 300 mile long trail, providing views of the Hangover Ridge and the Cheoah River.  The trail continues along the ridge, climbing to reach Old Field Gap Road, then follows a gated FS Road uphill and onto a wooded ridge.  The trail then continues to an old road (FS 251C) and then west, staying at or near the top of the ridge.  When that road ends, the trail drops down to a gap, then continues uphill to a major power line crossing with great views.  This is a good camping area, but water on this entire section is problematic. The trail continues east, dropping into Kirkland Gap, and continues over several small peaks to Yellow Creek Mountain.  Proceeding down from Yellow Creek Mountain, the trail continues past Lookout Rock, with some nice views of the GSMNP, and then descends to Green Gap.  At Green Gap, the trail continues along the ridge to intersect the Appalachian Trail at Walker Gap.  The BMT turns sharply left and descends the “Stairway to Heaven”, so named for the angle of the trail.  At the bottom, it is approximately a mile to the Fontana Lodge, General Store and Post Office, and another three miles to intersect the Appalachian Trail just above the Fontana Marina Trailhead/Route 28.  The BMT follows the AT through the Fontana Marina, across the Fontana Dam and up the access road to the Shuckstack Trailhead in the GSMNP. 

General Information

General Notes:

Trail Length: 31 + miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Usage: Low

Average Hiking Times: Three days 



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Recreation areas with activity Backpacking: