July 31 – August 1, 2021
Shining Rock Wilderness is quite breathtaking, chockfull of sweeping vistas, balds, and several peaks over 6,000′. It is also jammed with people hiking the trails and driving to the trailheads. Right next to Shining Rock, separated by Hwy. 215, is a gem. Middle Prong Wilderness has beautiful vistas, gorgeous trails, waterfalls, yet for some reason the masses do not descend upon the trailheads. In fact, in all the years that I have hiked these trails, I rarely see another hiker.
This is one of my favorite destinations, Mt. Hardy, the middle of the wilderness. Perhaps that is where the name comes from? While there are only five trails in total, the Mountains-to-Sea trail (MST) traverses the southern border and meets at a right angle with the Green Mountain Trail.
My good friend, Johnny and I met for a weekend backpacking trip at Haywood Gap. From there, it is only a 2.5 mile hike on the MST to Mt. Hardy. The original plan was to camp at the summit like we did in 2016. We summited early in the afternoon via a southern bushwhack, but there was too much blowdown to hammock camp. We descended and hiked a very short way up the Green Mountain Trail.
The vista that evening at sunset from the balds was breathtaking.
This is truly one of my favorite places to visit. In the morning, I hiked out with the cool mountain air wafting gently around me. This is truly a quintessence of hiking grandeur.
Total mileage is 6.1 miles.