BMT: Segment 18a-18e (Beech Gap to Tapoco Lodge)
ElevationAscent: 1,597' 487 m
Descent: -4,955' -1,510 m
High: 5,322' 1,622 m
Low: 1,158' 353 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 54% (28°)
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“The Benton MacKaye Trail section from Beech Gap to Tapoco Lodge.”— Larry Van Dyke
From Beech Gap, head down the gated road to the north to Cold Springs Gap (1.8 miles). Here several trails intersect at this point. Take Trail 54A on the right, the Bob Bald Connector. This is the new route for the Benton MacKaye Trail. Follow 54A steeply uphill to the intersection with the Stratton Bald Trail #54, 1.2 miles from Cold Springs Gap. Turn right on #54 and follow it to the top of Bob Bald (0.5 miles from intersection of #54A and #54.
Wow, beautiful views, wide open bald and wonderful place for a picnic or to camp out for the night.
If you are headed to Hangover, with it's magnificent 360-degree view into the Smokies and surrounding mountains or on to Tapoco Lodge, the trails through the bald are indistinct but go generally east toward the huge spruce trees. The trail becomes distinct just to the left of the spruces.
Head down to the intersection with Haoe Lead Trail #53 and go to Naked Ground with its views of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a great place to camp and get water.
From Naked Ground, you go north on Saddle Tree Gap. Here you can take a "must do" side trip to Hangover.
Take Hangover Lead Trail #56 to Big Fat Gap, about 3 miles, to take Windy Gap Trail #400 to Nichols Cove Trail #44 to Yellow Hammer Gap Trail, go straight on Yellow Hammer Gap Trail to Ike Branch #45 and turn right and go about 200 yards to the intersection with Hangover Lead Trail #56. (Don't even think about using Hangover Lead Trail #56 to return to Saddle Tree Gap, it's straight up and likely to see a lot of blow downs.)
Turn right and go 100 ft uphill to the junction with Tapoco Lodge Trail #156 to the gravel road and follow it to Tapoco Lodge and have a pizza and some cold ones.
Detailed guidebooks are available atbmta.org.
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Local Club: Benton MacKaye Trail Association