Welcome in Spring with a CHALLENGE: the Slickrock Creek Trail

As always, "No" RSVP's are NOT necessary - Thanks.

Let's welcome in Spring with a mountain trip that should see flowers and warmth down in the valley, and cold and wintry at the top. You should be a confident, experienced backpacker to attempt this trip.

Carpool from the Nashville area after work on Friday, we'll drive the 3.5 hours to the Trailhead.  We will saddle up and hike a couple of miles and establish a camp and get a nice rest.

Saturday we will wake up early and get a start on the 13 mile Slickrock Creek Trail.  This trail -also known as the "Ballbuster" is billed as the hardest hike in the Southern Applachians.  It ascends a rugged 4,200ft to Stratton Bald, crossing Slickrock Creek 8 times.  (Note the water in the creek will be cold and normally 2ft deep - if it is too high we will alter the trip.)

We will camp at the top. Sunday we'll follow Hangover Lead trail back down to the car(s).

Total distance should be about 22mi.

Expect cold conditions, we will evaluate conditions when it gets close.  The deciding factor will be the stream depths on Slickrock Creek.

Contact me with questions!

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  • A former member
    A former member

    This is too funny Rob, if all goes as planned, I'll be camping right next to the main Slickrock Creek crossing Saturday nights while heading north on my 300+ mile thru-hike of the Benton Mackaye Trail. We should pass each other along the trail sometime during the day on Saturday. I sure hope I see you here, because that means you were able to ford the stream OK, which means I will too!

    March 6, 2013

    • Rob C.

      Jim- We are taking the Slickrock Creek Trl, so unless you are ahead of schedule we probably wont bump into you. According to your hike schedule you'll be zeroing in Robbinsville? If so maybe we can meet you for our post hike meal, and catch up on your progress.

      March 11, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I was about 10 miles from the Little Slickrock Creek Trail when the weather forced me to turn around and backtrack to the Cherohala Skyway. It was closed on the NC side, but I was able to hitch a ride down the TN side into Tellico Plains.

      March 27, 2013

  • Rob C.

    The rain only came at night, and the climb and descent were really tough. This trip pretty much went as described. This loop might be the hardest loop in the South :)

    March 25, 2013

  • Kimber B.

    Thanks Rob.. that was true "wilderness experience". thanks for organizing. (I could even actually still walk this morning...)

    March 25, 2013

  • Keith W.

    This was a most challenging, and beautiful hike, Thanks to Rob Connor and Kimber Barton.

    March 24, 2013

  • Rob C.

    Hey Folks, it is looking more and more like this will be a winter trip. I am expecting snow at the top of the mountain and 40s and rain down below. With rain forecast, it is a strong possibility that we will skip the lower part of the slickrock creek trl because the fords may be dangerously deep (and COLD) (see Bryan's post on one of the alternatives).
    we'll keep an eye on the weather.

    1 · March 19, 2013

  • Bryan D.

    Post continued. About ½ mile after crossing Hangover Creek the trail splits again. Slickrock Creek Trail switches back to the left, leaves the creek and starts the steep climb up the ridge. I placed a rock cairn here too. The trail to the right is an old unmaintained trail and will fade out within about 100 yards. There is a large, nice camp site at Naked Ground with a spring; however, this is a popular camping area. Rather than do an out and back I would also suggest that on Sunday leave Naked Ground, hike to Hangover, which is one of the best views in East Tennessee, and then take Hangover Lead Trail to Yellow Hammer Gap and then Ike Branch Trail to Slickrock Creek Trail and then back to Tapoco Trail Head. Several years ago Backpacker Magazine listed Hangover Lead Trail as the steepest trail in North Carolina. Have fun!

    March 18, 2013

  • Bryan D.

    Living in Knoxville and having backpacked in Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness often, to avoid the Slickrock Creek crossings I would suggest taking Ike Branch Trail, which intersects with Slickrock Creek Trail about 0.8 miles from the Tapoco Trailhead (Cheoah Dam). Then take Yellow Hammer Gap Trail to Nichols Cove Trail to Slickrock Creek Trail. This route will avoid all 10 crossings of Slickrock Creek, but does have more climbs than lower Slickrock Creek Trail. In fact Ike Branch Trail is a steep climb up to Yellow Hammer Gap. Also about a mile or less upstream from the junction of Big Fat Gap Trail, Slickrock Creek Trail appears to bear left, but this trail only goes up to a camp and dead ends. Slickrock Creek Trail actually bears right and crosses Hangover Creek. When I was there last June I placed rock cairns on both sides of Hangover Creek. Hopefully they are still there.

    March 18, 2013

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