The Bartram Trail is maintained in such a manner to provide a safe, but sometimes “challenging”, pathway through the area visited by William Bartram during his travels in North Carolina and Georgia. The footpath will sometimes be soil, sometimes rocky and with exposed tree roots, just like most major woodland trails in the mountains. The footpath will have both wooden and stone steps, waterbars, check-dams and switchbacks on the steeper parts of the trail.
Especially in the fall, with those beautiful leaves covering just about everything on the trail be alert for roots and rocks in the trail that may be hard to see. In years of heavy acorn and other mast crops, these nuts, when covered by a leaf layer, can be like walking on ball bearings. So use caution, especially on steep sections of the trail to protect yourself from strains, sprains, or broken bones.
The trail has stream crossings that have foot bridges installed and some that are “wet”, i.e., there is no bridge. These bridgeless crossings could be a “hop-over” or require fording the stream with ankle-deep or deeper water.
The NC portion of the trail is maintained by volunteer crews composed of NC Bartram Trail Society members. Likewise, the Georgia portion of the Bartram Trail is maintained by the Georgia Bartram Trail Group (GBTG). These crews repair footpath damage; install steps, water-bars and check-dams; clear blow-downs; and generally keep the trail free of vegetation.
The general trail conditions described above would be characterized as the “normal” condition of the trail. An attempt is made to keep any “abnormal” status of the NC Bartram Trail updated on the Trail Advisories page. You are encouraged to check this link for the latest information on the trail prior to your hike.
For the condition of the Georgia Bartram Trail, you should use the “Contact Us” link on the GBTG website.
However, sudden weather systems (tropical storms, snow storms, etc) can negatively impact the trail’s condition and cause sudden increases in the water flow of the streams that the trail crosses. Information is updated as soon as trail maintenance crews can visit a part of the trail and report their findings or repair the trail.
Regardless of the currency of the trail reports, there is no substitute for using caution and prudence in making your decision to hike any trail that has, or possibly has had, some damage to its pathway. It’s better to turn around and retrace your steps and hike another day, than to risk injury trying to traverse a dangerous trail condition.
UPDATE–May 30, 2013: NANTAHALA LAKE LEVELS:
In compliance with their operating license Duke Energy manages the Nantahala Lake levels with scheduled lake water releases. Periods of heavy rainfall may require additional unscheduled water releases. The release schedule is posted on the NCBTS website as are links to the Duke Energy website for lake level information regarding both scheduled and unscheduled water release.
When lake water is not being released hikers traveling south to north just past mile 54 descend on wooden steps to Nantahala Dam Rd. Stay straight on Nantahala Dam Road and cross the Nantahala riverbed on the concrete ford spillway for the Nantahala Lake dam. Then continue uphill about 300 feet, turn right on Highwater Trail Road and proceed 2.2 miles to intersect Cloudwalker Cove Road. Turning right the Bartram Trail goes a short distance and over a bridge to Junaluska Road (SR 1400) where it goes right again 0.1 mile to the Appletree Group Campground gate on the left. At this point the trail becomes a blazed footpath again.
During lake water releases the concrete ford is impassable and the following alternate roadwalk is necessary. Traveling south to north just past mile 54 after descending the wooden steps go right on Nantahala Dam Road 0.9 miles to its intersection with Junaluska Road (SR 1400). Go left and take Junaluska Road about a mile to rejoin the Bartram Trail near the Appletree Group Campground gate where the trail becomes a blazed footpath again.
PLEASE NOTE: The NC Bartram Trail Society strongly recommends obtaining the trail maps and associated Guides. The BT crosses complicated terrain. Although the trail is marked with yellow vertically-oriented rectangles (blazes) in North Carolina and yellow diamonds in Georgia, it is important to know where you are on the trail and where you are going. You need to know the location of possible ingress and egress paths/roads, especially in case of emergency. Maps and guide books can be obtained by clicking here.
HIKERS: Please help preserve the beauty of the Bartram Trail. Observe the principles of Leave No Trace and carry out all trash and leave no trace of your presence.
TELL US ABOUT THE TRAIL: The Bartram Trail Society will appreciate any suggestions you have for trail improvements. Please send these suggestions through our contact form. If you are hiking the Bartram Trail and encounter any conditions that need to be corrected (e.g., eroded pathway, tree blow-downs across the path, landslides, etc) please send a report on that condition via our contact form. That information will be passed onto the Trail Maintenance Team so that corrective action can be initiated.