What season is best for walking the trail?
Depends on your preference!
Winter: Sometimes snowy and/or icy conditions exist, and low temperatures in the 20’s or teens, but some days are warm and sunny with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. More views are open with the leaves off the trees. January and February are often the most rainy months of the year.
Spring: Weather can still be wintery in March and cold even into April. Typical temperatures later range from 50’s to 70’s. Views at higher elevations are wide and open before the trees leaf out in May. In April, May, and June a variety of wild flowers bloom , including violets, bloodroot, trillium, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Mid to late May mountain laurel blooms, also flame azalea, and catawba rhododendron.
Summer: Some days are humid, in the 80’s (carry plenty of water), but the trail is always cooler than the lowlands and cities. Temperatures are often in the 70’s. Shady glens, forested trail, and mountain streams provide relief from the heat. Rosebay rhododendron blooms in late June; the white Rhododendron maximum, from late June into July.
Autumn: Leaf color is spectacular–best in mid-October. Hiking temperatures are pleasant, usually 50 to 70 degrees. The fall months tend to be the least rainy. Frost is possible from late September on into October and November.
2. Is there water on the trail?
The trail is primarily a ridge top trail. Water can be scarce, but there are several dependable sources–rivers, streams, and springs–indicated on the section maps. All water should be treated before drinking.
3. Where can I camp? Can I build a camp fire?
Camping is allowed on National Forest lands. No permit is required. Much of the land is steep and unsuitable for camping; flat land tends to be in the gaps. There are no shelters on the trail. Please do not camp at trail heads. Fires are discouraged because of their impact on the area around the campsite and the danger of forest fires. However, fires are allowed unless the area is under a fire ban. You must check with a Ranger Station. The Bartram Trail Society recommends use of trail stoves.
4. How strenuous is the trail?
This depends on the section, your physical ability, and the weather. Some parts are steep; some are more gradual. Check the elevation profile on the WNC regional map of the NC Bartram Trail. The steepest sections overall are sections 2, 4, 5, and 7.
5. What hazards might I encounter on the trail?
Lightning storms tend to occur in summer. In a storm, avoid high, rocky areas. Yellow jackets are occasionally encountered in summer or early fall and poison ivy in some areas. Two poisonous snakes inhabit the area– the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead–but are rarely seen. Bears are also present in the area but never seen. Bear hunting season is usually the last two weeks in October. Hikers should wear “blaze orange” for visibility.
6. How safe is parking at the trail heads?
We have experienced very little vandalism along the NC Bartram Trail, but it is best not to leave valuable items in your parked vehicle.
7. Where can I get a car shuttle?
At present, there is no established shuttle service. You’ll need to find a friend and come with two cars.
8. Are there opportunities for working on the trail?
YES! If you become a member of the Bartram Trail Society (see our online sales page), you will receive notice of work hikes in the newsletter. Or, you can contact us to let us know of your interest or write to our postal address:
The N.C. Bartram Trail Society
P. O. Box 968
Highlands, NC 28741