Bald Mountain via the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

A steep in-and-out hike with scenic views from the trail and the summit.

Author - Steve Pierce

Difficulty Level - Moderately AdvancedDifficulty level:

Moderately Advanced

This level is basically the same as the Moderate level but there is more of it.  The trails are longer and steeper.  Plan on your nose touching the ground as you climb.  If you don’t think you can make this type of hike, you probably can’t.  Practice a little more.  Find a hiking buddy.

Shoes: Light - Medium
A light to medium weight hiking boot that supports the ankle.

TOTAL DISTANCE: Total distance round trip is 9.6 miles. Elevation gain is about 2,600 feet for the round trip.

Time:  Expect to spend 6 hours on the trail to reach the summit and return.  Bring water and a lunch.

Safety:  The trail is generally in good condition.  In July/August 2015 a wildfire burned this area, so the trail crosses some burned over areas. The trail is rocky in places.  Within 1.5 miles of the summit the trail is steeper and had several switchbacks.  Please remain on the trail and do not shortcut the switchback turns. Most of this hike is on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) and is blazed with a while circle.

From Marion take Hwy 221 north toward Woodlawn.  Turn right on American Thread Road (signed for North Cove Elementary School and Coats American plant).  Go about 1.5 miles and turn right onto Good Road, go to end of road. Park near gate on left.


CLICK HERE FOR GPX FILE (GPS Software required to open)

THE TRAIL:  The trail begins at the gate. Follow the old road along the North Fork of the Catawba River 3/4 of a mile to the junction with the MST (white circle blaze). Go left on the MST and cross the footbridge.

Stop on the bridge to view the North Fork of the Catawba River as it flows toward Lake James.  Prior to the bridge, hikers had to wade across. Thanks to the Forest Service for the bridge.  Once across the bridge you will cross a railroad.  This is an active line, so stop, look, and listen before crossing.  The trail then climbs moderately to another forest service road.  Go left on the road and follow it as it curves along a gentle grade.  At about 1 mile from the railroad crossing the MST (look for the white circle blaze) bears right off the forest service road and begins a slight ascent. 

As you climb farther you will pass a large pit on the left side of the trail. This is an old lead mine, long abandoned.  As the ascent continues the trail becomes rockier and you will begin to see evidence of the wildfire.  The trail curls right in front of a large outcrop, continue past it and you will soon find yourself on top of the outcrop with good views west to the Woodlawn valley and the Black Mountains in the distance. This is a good rest stop for a snack and water.

The next 1.5 miles is steep with many switchbacks and rocks.  Evidence of the wildfire is all around.  As you climb higher the views to the west and north open up more.  A sharp left turn signals you have reached the ridge and the final climb to the summit of Bald Mountain.  The summit is apparent when you reach more rocks with spectacular views north and west.  On the right side of trail you will catch glimpses of Lake James.  Choose a rock with a good view and enjoy your lunch before returning the same way you came up.  If you do venture farther on the MST you will see Table Rock and the Chimneys to the northeast.

The white circle blaze will indicate the sharp right turn as you come off the ridge of Bald Mountain and begin descending the switchbacks.  Remember to turn left when you reach the forest service road and then right from the road continuing to follow the MST and the while circle blazes.  Once across the railroad and footbridge turn right and follow the old road along the river until you reach the cars on Good Road.