Appalachian Trail: Sam’s Gap to Hog Back Shelter (2.5 miles)
Looking for a sweet day hike just outside Asheville? Ditch the Blue Ridge Parkway…you know everyone and their mom is out there on the weekends.
The Appalachian Trail makes many sweeps and crossings within an hour of Asheville. Of course, it can be a little overwhelming to pick a section–not knowing what the terrain is going to be like. Well here’s a nice start…
If you’re looking for moderate terrain to hike and don’t mind the trademark roller coaster up-and-downs, check out the AT where it intersects Sam’s Gap on the NC/TN border! From the parking area, hikers can choose to head north or south. North will take you to Big Bald, Spivey Gap, and ultimately…Maine. However, making a left out of the parking area and heading south on the AT will take you to a quieter and more remote stretch of trail that leads to Hog Back Shelter, Devil’s Gap, and Hot Springs, NC.
When I only have a few hours to kill, but am in need of getting away from society–I often head to this stretch of the AT. I hike 2.5 miles out to Hog Back Shelter, stop and have a snack, and then head back another 2.5 miles to the trail head. I takes me about 2 hours and the terrain provides me we enough challenge to feel like I am accomplishing something (calorie-wise)!!
This section starts by crossing under the I-26 bridge, then quickly turns up the hills and starts climbing into the treeline. The trail is completely shaded in this area, so no need for sun screen! It starts out with a moderate climb that sweeps around the side of the mountain. The trail quickly ushers you into a hidden meadow with large, ancient Oaks.
Eventually it meets up with an old logging road cut through the forest. Keep trekking and the trail begins to follow an old fence, no doubt built there around the turn of the century. One can imagine all sorts of cattle grazing the hillside.
Just around the time your legs have warmed up for the hike, the trail takes on a more challenging terrain. Steady up-and-over hills make the way. The climbs are more short, abrupt, and steep, rather than long and sustained. But it is the number of them that make them a great workout for the legs…don’t worry–there’s always the downhill side to rest on.
About 40 minutes into the hike, you will arrive at High Rocks. This is a beautiful, sweeping vista overlooking TN. The outcropping is approximately 200ft. off the trail and well worth the climb!
Keep walking south and you’ll climb up-and-over three more hills. Once you begin making a big descent, you are just about to the shelter. Hog Back Shelter is about 0.1mi. off the trail. The shelter will house about 5 hikers. The shelter also has a privy for your comfort and convenience (a privy with a pretty awesome view too!) and a water source. Unfortunately, the water source is 0.25mi. away from the shelter…a bit further than I want to walk off trail to source water. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to kick your shoes off and have a snack.
The hike back to the parking area is generally a bit easier as you are gradually losing elevation toward Sam’s Gap. All-in-all, this a great day hike if you’re up for some moderate strain. It takes me about 35 minutes to beam out there from Asheville so it’s not too bad for distance. Plus, you won’t have the droves of people that the parkway attracts.
Just take I-26 west from Asheville and then take the exit for Wolf Laurel. From the exit ramp, make a right. At the end of the bridge, make a left. Go about 3 miles and the road will wind back toward I-26. The parking area is on the left…enjoy!