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Charles Bunion

MAP LENGTH: 10.8 miles R.T.
SKILL: Novice-Intermediate
PROS: Views, Small elevation change 
CONS: Crowds
WATER: At Icewater Spring 
NOTES: Be careful at Charles Bunion hikers have fallen off of the face.


Newfound Gap

Yes it's true that the most crowded section of the Appalachian Trail is the section that leads to Charles Bunion. Perhaps it's the views or maybe it's the ease of access. Either way it's well worth the frequent greetings to other hikers, to make the trip through this busy stretch of the A.T.. Novice hikers enjoy this one way walk of 6 miles because the trail is well graded and doesn't have any great elevation changes. Experienced hikers , including AT Thru Hikers, like this section of the trail because of the stunning views. I like it for both reasons.

The trail begins at the Newfound Gap parking lot, in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This is a great place to meet people, and other hikers, from all over the world. This section of the AT begins to the left of the path to the rest rooms.  For the first mile or so you will see many walkers that wander from the parking lot. Don't worry they won't go far before they turn back.           

C.C.C. Construction

This stretch of the A.T. was built in the Fall of 1932. A crew of 22 , lead by Sheridan West , completed this section in 31 days. It was the first development in the park for the public use.

The trail is lined with Fraser Fir as it starts a gentle but steady climb to Mt. Amber. The views to the right of the trail begin almost immediately. As you execute your easy climb, views of Newfound Gap road are seen as it cuts through the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After a mile of walking, to the left of the trail, views through the trees reveal landslides on the mountainside that borders Newfound Gap Rd.. Exposed rock shows the Anakeesta sandstone that makes up the back bone of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The evidence of wild hogs will become obvious as you hike away from the parking lot. The hogs are nocturnal, so the chances of seeing one is remote. They are harmless to the hiker but are very damaging to the forest. The turned up earth, sometimes 6 to 8 inches deep, covers hundreds of acres through out the park. These are ancestors of Russian Boers that escaped from a private hunting preserve in the early part of the century. The hogs not only compete for food with other wildlife, they also wallow in streams fouling the water at its sources.



Trail to Le Conte

After 2.5 miles of continuous climbing, the junction of the Boulevard trail is to the left. This is the shortest route to Mt. LeConte, but not the easiest due to frequent elevation changes. Shortly after that, as you hike through the spruce - fir forest, the Ice water Spring shelter comes into view. Be sure to check out the hikers log that is in the shelter. Many Thru Hikers have left their mark in this book, including "Two Step" (Rich White) ,our favorite one ! His entry is on 3-20-99 and demonstrates his positive attitude.

After leaving the shelter, you will see a piped spring in the middle of the trail. This is the original Ice water Spring. Many hikers drink directly from the spring, not smart ! For the next 1/4 mile the trail and the spring are part of each other. This is very interesting experience, hiking in a stream, supplied by Ice water Spring. Anakeesta sandstone and yellow slate are underfoot making for a very slippery tread way. At this point you are on the Tennessee / North Carolina line.

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