Bunches Bald: Drive to Trailhead & Trail Guide
Note: This is on the Cherokee reservation. Ask permission at the campground, it is open May 15 - Oct 15.
ALERT: There is a 2017 report that they are now hostile to summit hikers. I recommend against sneaking up in the off season. I’ve heard Cherokee courts are unsympathetic to trespassers. In 2015, when I activated, I asked at the camp office and they said, “Sure. Go ahead.”
Drive Guide - Heintooga Rd to Bunches Bald
- Best route:
- Go 1 mile on Heintooga past
- L onto unnamed dirt road at at sign for Mile High Campground and go 0.3.
- At 5-way intersection:
- Do not take the acute L (downhill). This is BIA 407 back to Heintooga.
- Do not take the acute R. This leads into campsites.
- 90-degree left turn leads to office (slight uphill). There are signs when the camp is open. Go there and ask permission.
- 90-degree right turn (passing between green shed and shower building) leads to trailhead. Park in the grass strip (inside the hairpin) where road makes hairpin turn L.
There’s a gate on the path to the summit (not across BIA 407).
- Poor route - Immediately after turning onto Heintooga, bear L on twisty dirt road (BIA 407) up to campground.
The 5-way intersection in the middle of the camp:
- There’s a speed bump on the driveway back to Heintooga.
- There’s a sign as you come into camp that says to drive slow. On the back of this sign (visible from mid-intersection), there’s hand-lettered “Exit” on the left side of the sign and a wiggly line on the right side. This tells you that the road to the left is the driveway back to Heintooga, and the road to the right is the twisty-windy BIA 407 leg back to Heintooga.
- There’s a speed bump on the leg of BIA 407 that leads to the trailhead. (This is the road between the green shed and the shower building.)
Drive Guide - Bunches Bald from Atlanta
- Duration: 168 miles, 3:05
- Google Maps URL from Atlanta (33.91998, -84.33898): http://goo.gl/maps/yrTpo
- Seasonal/Limited Access: Parkway closed in winter. Check the BRP Closure Map.
- I-285 to I-85. At I-85 go N 16.6
- I-985/GA-365 and go 52.6
- US-23N and go 76.6
- L to Blue Ridge Pky access and go 0.5
- R onto Blue Ridge Pky and go 14.6
- R onto Heintooga Ridge Rd (mile marker 458.2 @ sign to Masonic marker)
- Continue at “Heintooga Rd to Bunches Bald”
- Last McDonalds: 329 Franklin Plaza, Franklin, NC (poor service)
- Penultimate McD: Clayton, GA (busy on Saturday mornings)
- Antepenultimate: Cornelia, on Level Grove Rd (just BEFORE Cornelia)
Drive Guide - Bunches Bald from Waterrock Knob
- Duration: 8 miles, 0:30
- Google Maps URL from Waterrock: http://goo.gl/maps/LRQ4W
- Follow driveway back to Pky for 0.3
- R onto Pky and go 6.9
- R onto Heintooga Ridge Rd (mile marker 458 @ sign to Masonic marker).
- Continue at “Heintooga Rd to Bunches Bald”
Drive Guide - Bunches Bald TO Atlanta
- Head back the way you came and go 0.1
- At the green shed, take the 90-degree left (which has a speed bump) back to Heintooga.
- R onto Heintooga Ridge Rd and go 1 mile to Parkway.
- L onto Pky and go 14.6
- L toward US-23 S/US-74W and go 0.5
- R onto US-23 S/US-74W and go 13
- Merge to US-23S/US-441S and go 20.5
- Ramp to US-23 S/US-441 S and go 21.8
- R onto GA-15 S/US-23 S/US-441 S and go 11
- R onto GA-15 S/US-23 S/US-441 S and go 40.1
- Straight on I-985 and take I-85 to I-285
- Duration: 0.2 miles, 0:10 hike + 10 minutes in office
- You’ll park in the grass in the middle of the road’s hairpin left.
- At the middle of the hairpin, there is a lesser dirt road. There’s a rusty, metal-pipe gate which is open when the campground is open.
- Walk up this road past a tent campsite.
- Just before a pressed-metal gate (with a hand-lettered “Employees Only” sign), there’s a dirt trail up and to your right, leading into the last campsite.
- Walk into the last campsite (post is marked T4). Apologize to the campers.
- At the extreme left edge of the campsite, there’s a vague opening into the woods. There is a rhodadendron which has some branches sawed off. Step through this opening.
- Follow the ridge line from the campsite up to the crest.
- There is a benchmark at the summit. The summit is easily recognizable. Watch out for bear scat on the faint manway.
- No real need for GPS going up. GPS is helpful coming down.
- Trailhead altitude: 5380 (measured w/altimiter)
- Summit altitude: 5500
- GPS tracks/waypoints:
- Dirt road to campsite: 35.51506, -83.18784
- Trailhead at edge of campsite: 35.51554, -83.18875
- Summit: 35.5161, -83.1900
- Hang antenna from tree: No. Too much greenery.
- Space to guy mast: Yes.
- Cell coverage: AT&T=failed; Verizon=OK (roamed); APRS=OK