Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 4
ElevationAscent: 15,801' 4,816 m
Descent: -14,589' -4,447 m
High: 4,290' 1,307 m
Low: 1,261' 384 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (4°)
Max Grade: 48% (26°)
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“Gorges, Peaks, and Waterfalls: Black Mountain Campground to Beacon Heights”— Jim Grode
Permits for campsites in Linville Gorge Wilderness, Wilson Creek, and Lost Cove Creek areas can be obtained from Grandfather Ranger District, 109 Lawing Drive, Nebo, 28761; 828-652-2144; firstname.lastname@example.org. Permits are issued by the district ranger office by mail or in person.
Camping is prohibited on all BRP property. Before setting up a backcountry camp, please confirm that you are in a legal camping area.
The trail then descends to the North Fork of the Catawba River and climbs Bald Knob and Dobson Knob, some of the most challenging ascents on the entire MST. From these heights, visitors see some of the most spectacular views of the region, from Lake James to Little Switzerland.
The next part of the trail offers views of the spectacular Linville Gorge, descending to the Linville River on the west side then climbing to the eastern lip of the gorge at Shortoff Mountain and following its eastern edge. Because this popular part of the trail has had frequent forest fires, there are stretches with little water or shade from the Linville River until descending again at Table Rock.
The Linville River is approximately 60 yards wide at the crossing point. The water is usually at least knee deep, but it can be much higher and dangerous after rains and in cold weather. The directions in the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail guide described below offer an alternate route to cross the river via a bridge if you reach the river when it is at dangerous levels.
The trail dips into remote wild-trout waters located in areas nominated for wilderness status. It follows tributaries in the western Wilson Creek basin to the confluence of Harper Creek and Raider Camp Creek and then climbs along Harper Creek before hopping over a ridge to Lost Cove Creek and Gragg Prong. The trail follows these streams until it nears the BRP at Grandmother Mountain and Beacon Heights. Much of this part of the trail travels alongside crashing wild streams and rocky outcrops, which also offer spectacular cascades and waterfalls. This area was heavily timbered in the early 20th century and the trail often follows the old roads and railroad beds. One may look for traces of once vigorous human activity among the resurgent timber, in the sagging banks of these passages, and in the hints of washed-out and vanished bridges and settlements and wonder how nature has reclaimed these valleys and coves.
If you are interested in an overnight backpacking trip, this segment may be divided into 4 sections of roughly similar lengths. The first 19.6-mile section is between Black Mountain Campground and US 221 at the Forest Service Work Center at Woodlawn. The second 13.6-mile section is between US 221 at Woodlawn Work Center and Old NC 105. The third 19.6-mile section is between Old NC 105 and NC 181. The fourth 22.5-mile section is between NC 181 and Beacon Heights on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Much of this segment travels through wilderness areas, so even MST blazing, a 3" white circle, may be sparse. There is some signage along forest service roads in the vicinity of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. There are some blazed trails in the Harper Creek and Lost Cove Creek areas.
For more information, including camping, lodging, parking, shuttles, and resupply information, as well as detailed, turn-by-turn directions, download a trail guide from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
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Local Club: Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (Friends)
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