SOTA Guide - Grassy Ridge Bald, W4C/EM-001

Unpleasantly busy on a weekend. Consider activating on a weekday. The extended parking was filling fast at 10 AM on a non-holiday Saturday with gray weather. Estimated full by 10:30-ish. I scraped bottom getting into the extented parking.

Be sure you have enough gas to make it back to I-26 before you leave I-26. There is one ‘real’ gas station on US-19E, 2 miles before you leave 19E; there are a couple of maybe-still-in-business stations between 19E and the summit, but don’t count on them.

Drive Guide - Grassy Ridge Bald from Atlanta

  • Duration: 4:30 (Google says it is 4:20. My 2018 experience is that you need 4:30 (plus any time for pit stops).
  • Google Maps URL fromAtlanta (33.917, -84.3378):
  • Seasonal/Limited Access: Paved road all the way.
  • Directions:
  • I-285 to I-85 N
  • In Greenville, SC: I-185 N and go 1.6
  • Exit 15, US-25 N and go 39
  • I-26 W and go 45
  • Exit 9, US-19 N and go 10.7
  • US-19E N and go 6.9 (last McDonalds is on this stretch)
  • L on NC-197 and go 3
  • R on Fork Mtn Rd and go 4.2
  • L on NC-261 N and go 9.1
  • Park at the state line, where gated road 1348 goes off to your left.
  • Food
    • Last McDonalds: 19E in Burnsville, NC; just before you turn L on NC-197.
    • Penultimate McDonalds: Weaverville, NC; I-26 exit 19B.
    • Best Plan: About 10 miles before Asheville (whether you go I-26 or I-40 route)

Drive Guide - Grassy Ridge Bald from Knoxville, TN

  • Duration: 2:35
  • Google Maps URL:
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • I-40 East
    • I-81 North and go 56
    • I-26 East (exit 57A) and go 15.5
    • US-321 North (exit 24) and go 4.5
    • R on TN-362 South and go 0.2
    • R on Gap Creek Rd and go 8.2
    • R on US-19E South and go 10.2
    • R on TN-143 South and go 12.6
    • Park after crossing state line into NC
  • Food
    • Last McDonalds: Exits 13, 19, 23 along I-26 between I-81 and US-321.
    • Penultimate McDonalds: Exit 23 on I-81 between Knoxville and Kingsport.

Trail Guide

  • Duration: 2.4 miles, 1:40 up and 1:20 down (actual times in 2018, first summit of the day)
  • Water: On a cool, overcast day, 2 pints of fluid was plenty. Need more for hot sun.
  • Navigation
    • Follow the AT east from parking at the state line
    • Cross 2 peaks before you get there. They aren’t really distinct on the way out, but on the way back, they’re a challenge t o to climb.
    • At about 2 miles, the trail forks and the AT bears left and downhill and the trail to Grassy Ridge Bald bears right and uphill to the summit. It gets markedly steeper just past this fork.
  • Trailhead altitude: 5510 @ 36.1064, -82.1104
  • Summit altitude: 6180 @ 36.0998, -82.0804

Summit Guide

  • Much of the top is grassy, with watermelon-sized lumps hidden in the grass. Avoid setting up surrounded by the lumps. It is exhausting to set up in, because you’re constantly going up and down and trying not to fall when you walk in the lumpy grass. Campsites with flattened grass and no ‘melons’:
    • Camp1: 36.1007,-82.08056
    • Camp2 (best): 36.10002,-82.08046
    • Camp3 (2nd best): 36.09964,-82.08010
    • Camp4: 36.10057,-82.08037
  • Consider activating short of the absolute top, still within the activation zone. Coming up the trail (or going down the trail), the GPS-measured edge of the activation zone is 36.10263,-82.08098. Consider climbing a few feet more for ‘insurance’, and set up your antenna. Get off the trail, or you’ll be bothered by hikers who want you to talk while you’re on the air.
  • Hang antenna from tree: Few trees on top. Some off-summit in the activation zone.
  • Space to guy mast: yes
  • Cell coverage: 2018: ATT no, APRS excellent. 2015: ATT yes, VZn intermittent, ATT had data service
  • Unique features: Beautiful hike.