Green Mountain Trail, Buckeye Gap Trail

May 14, 2016

For years I have had my eye on the Green Mountain Trail. While some call it Green Knob Trail, all will agree that this is a hellacious traverse in the Middle Prong Wilderness. Luckily, I found someone who was as crazy as me to hike it.

The weather Saturday morning was beautiful with sunshine and mild temperatures. Eric and I parked off Hwy. 215 on the gravel lot beside the West Fork of the Pigeon River, just past Sunburst Campground.

I’m not kidding around when I say the first mile and a half are steep. This terrain is just about the toughest section in western North Carolina. At one point I stopped to rest, placing one foot in front of me to lean, and literally my foot was level with my chest. The trail is unrelenting. It is beautifully maintained and did not have the usual blowdowns that many obscure wilderness trails are known for.

Soon the lush green of the forest was replaced with the stark brown and green of an alpine forest: hemlocks, firs, moss and ferns. To add to the change, the clouds came in and the wind started to blow. Green Knob gave us beautiful views of Shining Rock Wilderness.

After lunch at an open field, I finished Green Mountain, turned right (east) on the MST, and right again shortly thereafter on Buckeye Gap Trail. This portion of the trail is tricky. There are no signs, and a map and compass are obligatory.

Buckeye Gap follows an old logging road for several miles before descending rather starkly to the Middle Prong (creek). Then it’s another tricky turn onto Haywood Gap Trail and F.S. 47H. Somewhat surprisingly, there is a beautiful waterfall at the end of F.S. 47 H.

The road walk back to the car on F.S. 47 was a nice way to finish this hike. The canopy of green reappearing above, the feel of Appalachia in spring.

Total mileage is 12 miles.

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