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Hemphill Bald – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.6 mls N/A N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Hemphill Bald
4 hours and 30 minutes with 45 minutes of breaks
2,090 ft
13.0 mls N/A N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Gooseberry Knob at The Swag
6 hours and 15 minutes with 1 hour and 30 minutes of breaks
2,600 ft
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Park at Polls Gap. 35.56297, -83.16148

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins (Contact Zach)

Hemphill Bald is one of the finest viewpoints in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated on the park’s easternmost boundary along the formidable Cataloochee Divide, this grassy summit provides fantastic 270° views of surrounding ranges in North Carolina. The 5,556-foot summit is adorned with a stone picnic table shaded by an old majestic buckeye tree. Despite being 9.6 miles round-trip, the trail is relatively easy and features few significant ascents. You’ll follow the north side of the divide through beautiful hardwood forests and occasional meadows for cattle grazing.  The drawback of this hike is Heintooga Ridge Road is only open seasonally due to its high elevation and origination off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If it is winter you are out of luck. You’ll have to undergo tougher hikes from Cataloochee Valley or Cove Creek Gap. Even though getting to the trailhead is a hassle, the views are worth it and you’ll find the hike is less crowded than other popular hikes in the Smokies.

Mile  Summary and Highlights
2.6 - Maggot Spring Gap - follow national park boundary and fence
4.0 - Pine Tree Gap - grassy fields of Cataloochee Ranch
4.8 - Hemphill Bald summit (5,556 feet) and 270° views
5.7 - Double Gap - continue on the Cataloochee Divide Trail
6.6 - Gooseberry Knob at The Swag resort

Seasonal Closures – Heintooga Ridge Road is closed from November 1 to early May. The gate is very far from the trailhead, so you can only do this hike from mid-Spring to mid-Fall. The dates change slightly every year, so check the national park website for the exact dates. This is also your resource for temporary closures for bad weather.  

You can choose to turn around here for a 9.6-mile hike or you can continue on the Hemphill Bald Trail to connect with the Cataloochee Divide Trail. The hike from Double Gap continues to Gooseberry Knob at The Swag for more views for a 13.0-mile hike. This extra mileage is not noticeably difficult except for the climb back up to Hemphill Bald on the return leg.
Mid June
Hemphill Bald
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