Waterfalls, Wildlife, Solitude
Trail 64A to avoid many creek crossings. Can be dangerous after
rainfall. Snowbird Trail, after Upper Falls, and Kings Meadows Trail
can be difficult to follow.
orienteering skills are necessary for this hike.
THIS HIKE BEGINS AT THE END OF FOREST ROAD 75 AND ENDS AT THE HOOPER
BALD PARKING AREA ON THE CHEROHALA SKYWAY
here for a trip report | Camping
in the Nantahala
National Forest finding Snow bird is like finding a four leaf
clover. You feel lucky when you see it. This wilderness area is
secluded and not very well known to hikers, so the chances of finding
solitude are great. This is actually a proposed wilderness area
and wilderness designation has been blocked by a senator (Helms)
several times. The Big Snowbird Trail begins at the end of Forest
Road 75 and the drive in is a preview of what lies ahead. The
trail is "wet" and an excellent hike for the summer.
Snowbird Trail (64) is the trail at the end of the parking lot.
It resembles an old road but it is an old railroad grade. Railroad
artifacts will punctuate this entire hike. The trail (grade) begins
a gentle climb along Snowbird Creek. Dense rhododendron, as well
as hemlock and beech trees separate the trail from the creek.
At times the trail is high above the creek but it never comes within
easy reach of the rushing water. After 1.5 miles the trail passes
a small waterfall on the left, an excellent place to cool off in
the summer. As the trail follows the creek many small cascades can
be seen on your right. At approximately 2.5 miles the trail turns
right at an old junk car. Just ahead a few feet you cross Sassafras
Creek. This is an excellent campsite and is just above the confluence
of Sassafras and Snowbird Creek. The trail climbs slightly and you
pass Sassafras Creek trail on the left. This is an alternate route
that can make this a loop hike.
hiking on old logging railroad ties that are still in the ground.
Just one of many artifacts left from the timber days.
on narrow gauge railroad ties.
4 miles you pass Big Falls on the right. There are a couple of good
trails that lead through the thick rhododendron to the multi tiered
1/2 mile or so down the trail you cross the creek on a sturdy log
bridge. On the other side is an excellent open area for camping.
There is plenty of room for many groups to camp at this confusing
trail junction. There are many "fishing trails" here and
many hikers take a wrong turn. This is also the junction of 64A,
a dry route that takes you to the other side of Middle Falls. 64A
climbs a hill steeply and rises above and out of site of the creek
rapidly. After a mile the trail passes a junction on the left with
Middle Falls Overlook Trail. This is a spur that has a nice view
of the falls. Just ahead the trail rejoins Trail 64 at a cable bridge.
of Trail 64 and 64A
the "high" trail (64A) is ideal for cold weather hiking.
If you feel like splashing around, take 64 instead. In a mile it
crosses the creek 11 times! After reaching the cable bridge,
turn right on the trail without crossing the bridge. This will put
you back on trail 64.At the bridge there are several good campsites
right beside Snowbird Creek. This is a very popular camping area
and rightfully so! Middle Falls are very beautiful and there are
plenty of beautiful creekside sites here. Less experienced backpackers
and hikers should make this a "turn-around"
point or the first half of a loop. After
this, trail 64 becomes more and more difficult to follow.
you continue hiking through dense Rhododendron on big Snowbird Trail
(64) you rock hop several branches. Upper Falls, approximately 1.5
miles past Middle Falls, are difficult to access because of thick
Rhododendron. It is, however, possible to view them from the trail.
Another mile down the trail, after you cross an un-named branch,
is a large cache of railroad artifacts. In the clearing you will
see several large metal parts. If you bush whack up the branch to
the right of the main trail you will see more metal parts, some
paint cans and a possible railroad junction. A very interesting
place to explore or to make camp. As with most of this section of
trail, the foliage is so thick that very little light reaches the
Playing with old railroad scrap.
this clearing the Big Snowbird Trail is very hard to follow. Here
it begins its' many crossings of this pristine creek. There aren't
any alternate trails to keep your feet dry so in cold weather or
times of high water you may want to back track to the trailhead.
From here to the you will notice thick grass and Rhododendron along
the trail. Brook trout are residents of this creek, proving that
this water is very "clean". Because of the erosion caused
by careless logging practices, the creeks in this area supported
no fish population for many years. Thankfully the creek has completely
recovered and now supports a healthy fish population including the
of many creek crossings after Upper Falls.
section of trail is not very well traveled, possibly due to the
many creek crossings. It is difficult to follow the trail because
of the numerous washouts that must be negotiated. The railroad grades
weren't built to last forever.
at the Ranger Station one hiker said that he wouldn't recommend
this section of trail ( or lack thereof ) to anyone. He went on
to say "If you have some sins that you may want to do penance
for, this is the trail to do!"
you happen to get "turned around" just remember that the
"trail" follows the creek.
8.5 miles the trail junctions with the Mitchell Lick Trail. This
is a welcome sight after thrashing through the rhododendron!
water from Snowbird Creek
Mitchell Lick Trail (#154) leads up (1.5 miles) past the King Meadows
Trail (63). To continue to the Skyway, and your other vehicle, continue
your climb to the junction with the Hooper Bald Trail. At this junction,
a left will take you .1 mile to the parking area on the Cherohala
Skyway. A right will take you to Hooper Bald in just one fifth of
Cherohala Skyway was a very controversial issue during its planning
and construction. The local residents needed a highway to connect
with Tellico Plains for hunting, tourism and other purposes. Environmentalists
fought this highway because it cut through unspoiled wilderness
and because it severed important migratory paths for several species.
Rare animals and not so rare animals have been affected adversely.
Migratory paths that had been previously untouched since the beginning
of time, were changed forever. The result has been the reduction
of the population of some wildlife species.
Cherohala Skyway cutting through the wilderness
the breathtaking views that can be observed from the parking areas
cleverly placed along this Skyway. The ride from Big Junction to
the starting point is the "Icing on the cake" and a great
way to complete this hiking trip.
reach the trail head, take Route 143 west out of Robbinsville,
NC. After passing views of Santeetlah Lake on the right you
will see Snowbird Rd (S.R.1127) intersecting with Rt. 143 on the
left. Turn here and continue for approximately 2 miles or 3/10 mile
past Robbinsons Grocery. Turn left on Little Snowbird Rd.Continue
on Little Snowbird Road for approximately two miles. Look for Big
Snowbird Rd-(State Road 1120) a dirt road on the right. This is
FR 75. Turn right here and follow it until the end. This is the
trail head. The Snowbird trail is straight ahead and over a large
reach Big Junction and the car drop off, continue
on 143 out of Robbinsville, past Snowbird Road and continue on until
Route 143 becomes the Cherohala Skyway. After a spectacular drive
to the higher elevations, enter the Hooper Bald rest area on the
left. It is a developed rest area that is past the 5000 elevation
sign and on the left. The graveled Trailhead begins at the picnic
tables. Follow the trail signs to enter the Snowbird Basin. Drop
one of the vehicles off here and double back to FR 75. Overnight
parking is allowed.
it from your house with MapQuest>>