Drive to Trailhead & Trail Guide - Cowee Bald

Drive Guide - Cowee Bald From Atlanta

  • Duration: 2:50, 138 miles
  • Google Maps URL from Ashford Dunwoody Rd and I-285 at 33.91998, -84.33898:
    • https://goo.gl/maps/Dc1uJsxKMLQ2 (includes Shepherd Bald and Cowee Bald)
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • I-285 E
    • I-85 N and go 16.6
    • I-985/GA-365 N and go 52
    • US-441 N and go 44
    • Straight (cross over US-64) on Bus US-441 N and go 0.6
    • L fork on Maple St (at church) and go 0.4
    • L on W. Main (at T) and immediate R on Bidwell St and go 0.4
    • L on 2 lane highway at hill top and go 1.1
    • L to stay on NC-28 N and go 4.8
    • Bear R on 1340 / Cowee Creek Rd and go 0.2
    • R fork on Cowee Creek Rd and go 1.2
    • L on Leatherman Gap Rd, bearing L at 2.0 to stay on Leatherman and go another 0.9
    • S on USFS-70 (dirt) and go 2.6
    • Keep L at fork on USFS-70 and go 2.7
    • R fork on USFS-70 and go 0.5
    • Keep L on Government Rd (straight, really) and go 0.8. Road gets moderately rough, but not scary in my Corolla.
    • Park at wide spot in road when you see the locked gate.
  • Food
    • Last McDonalds: 329 Franklin Plaza, Franklin, NC (poor service)
    • Before that: Clayton, GA (busy on Saturday mornings)
    • Before that: Cornelia, on Level Grove Rd (just BEFORE Cornelia)

Drive Guide - Cowee Bald TO Atlanta

  • Directions:
    • Drive out on Government Rd and go 0.8
    • Straight on Government Rd and go 0.5
    • Straight on USFS-70 and go 2.7
    • Straight on USFS-70 and go 2.6
    • Straight onto paved Leatherman Gap Rd and go 2.9
    • R on Cowee Creek Rd and go 1.5
    • Bear L on NC-28 S and go 4.9
    • Bear R on NC-28 and go 1.6
    • R on W Main and immediately…
    • L on Porter St and go 0.4
    • Bear R onto Wayah St and go 0.1
    • Keep L onto Georgia Rd and go 12.9
    • Straight onto US-23 S and go 60.4
    • Straight onto I-985

Drive Guide - Cowee Bald From Yellow Bald

  • Duration: 1:26, 42 miles
  • Google Maps URL: http://goo.gl/maps/E2ILc
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:

Drive Guide - Cowee Bald From Shepherd Bald

  • Duration:
  • Google Maps
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • Continue the direction you were driving before you parked on USFS-70 and go 1.3
    • R fork on USFS-70 and go 0.5
    • Keep L on Government Rd (straight, really) and go 0.8. Road gets moderately rough, but not scary in my Corolla.
    • Park at wide spot in road when you see the locked gate.

Drive Guide - Cowee Bald From Wine Spring Bald

  • Duration:
  • Google Maps
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • Head North / East on Buck Creek Rd (Turn L if you parked in FS-4535 across from the trail) and go 9.1
    • Straight on NC-28 N and go 8
    • L on NE Main St and go 0.3
    • R on Depot St/Riverview St and go 1.4
    • Straight on NC-28 N and go 4.8
    • Bear R on 1340 / Cowee Creek Rd and go 0.2
    • R fork on Cowee Creek Rd and go 1.2
    • L on Leatherman Gap Rd, bearing L at 2.0 to stay on Leatherman and go another 0.9
    • S on USFS-70 (dirt) and go 2.6
    • Keep L at for on USFS-70 and go 2.7
    • R fork on USFS-70 and go 0.5
    • Keep L on Government Rd (straight, really) and go 0.8. Road gets moderately rough, but not scary in my Corolla.
    • Park at wide spot in road when you see the locked gate.

Trail Guide

  • Duration: 0:15, 0.5 mile to the summit
  • Navigation
    • There’s an always-closed gate on the road to the summit. You’ll park within sight (less than 100’) of the gate, at an obvious wide spot in the road. I measured the altitude at the parking area as about 145’ vertically below the summit. If the activation zone is 75’, you only need to climb 70’ vertically.
    • There is very bad QRM (loud buzzing, S7-S8) on all HF bands at the summit.It was so bad I almost abandoned my activation attempt. Once you reach the summit, you really can’t get far enough away from the towers to mitigate the QRM. I recommend setting up your antenna well before the cell towers come into sight.
    • You reach the edge of the activation zone at 35.33091,-83.33897, 0.15 miles after the parking area.
    • At 35.32995,-83.33716 (0.27 miles after the parking lot) you are about 23’ below the summit and you have done almost all of your steep climbing. (i.e. It was “steep” up to this point and it is a more gentle climb after this point.)
    • If you can find a good spot between 35.33091,-83.33897 and 35.32995,-83.33716, that will certainly be better than setting up near the fire tower.
  • Trailhead altitude: 4810 at parking
  • Summit altitude: 4944
  • GPS tracks/waypoints:
    • Parking: 35.33255,-83.34038 (wide spot in road, within sight of locked gate, within 100’ of the gate)
    • Near edge of 75’ activation zone: 35.33091,-83.33897
    • End of steep climb, 23’ below the high point: 35.32995,-83.33716
    • Summit: 35.3265, -83.3351

Summit Guide

  • Hang antenna from tree: Yes
  • Space to guy mast: Yes
  • Cell coverage: Yes
  • Unique features:
    • Fire tower and cell towers
    • Very high QRM (buzzing, S7-S8) on all HF bands at the summit.
    • I was only able to raise one FM contact, even with spotting 146.55 and also calling on 146.52.

Plan-B Candidates

  • You literally drive right past the Shepherd Bald (W4C/WM-045) trailhead at 35.32478,-83.37609.