Drive to Trailhead & Trail Guide - Yellow Mountain


  • There are at least 4 apparent routes, but only 2 are open:
    • Cole Gap: 12+ miles round-trip, crossing Shortoff mountain on the way. Trailhead marked. Clearly an ‘official’ route. Trail rerouted sometime between 2015 and 2020, and lengthened from 5 miles to 6, one-way . This map shows the rerouted trail, now entirely on public land:
    • Hamburg Gap: “Private drive” sign on Cloud Catcher Ln, but the road leads to a marked Forest Service trail, and it has a sign, “This is a private road. If you use it, help maintain it.” Private roads are open to the public, so long as not marked “No Trespassing.” Clearly is a public route.
    • Zeb Buchanan Rd: Marked “No Trespassing” at 35.13224,-83.18153, before the driveway for the incomplete development at 35.13731,-83.18497. Gate half open in late 2021. May be accessible from the other end of Zeb, near Yellow Mtn Church, but satellite photo looks like pieces of the road are imaginary, and if one end is Posted, they don’t want you.
    • Yellow Mountain Gap: Ponderock (a.k.a. Ponderosa) Dr ends at Yellow Mountain Gap. Looks like a good way to access the trail that runs from Cole Gap to Yellow Mountain, but there is a “No Trespassing” sign and a barrier at 35.12335,-83.18289
    • This site is nominally about the Cole Gap route, but there are comments for each of the 3 routes.

Drive Guide - Highlands from Atlanta

  • Duration: 2:10, 121 miles
  • Google Maps URL from Atlanta (33.917, -84.3378):
  • Directions:
    • US-64 enters Highlands from the WNW, makes a 90-degree left turn, heading NNE. These directions take you from Atlanta to just past that left turn at 35.0528, -83.197.
    • I-285 E to I-85 N
    • I-985 N and go 23.8
    • US-23 N and go 52 to US-76 in Clayton
    • Straight on US-23 N for 7.5
    • R on GA-246 / NC-106 and go 14.2
    • R on US-64 and go 0.3
    • L on US-64 East (heading NNE).

Drive Guide - Hamburg Gap from Highlands, NC

  • Duration: 0:30, 13 miles
  • Google Maps URL from US-64 just after it turns N in Highlands at 35.0528, -83.197:
  • Seasonal/Limited Access: Dirt road last 0.6 miles. KM4BLG reports Cloud Catcher is drivable in a sedan (December 2019).
  • Directions:
    • US-64 East (really is north) from Highlands and go 6.9
    • Turn on GPS, to record the drive. Do it NOW so it is ready when you leave pavement.
    • L on Norton Rd (SR1144) at 35.109, -83.1484 and go 2
    • L on Yellow Mountain Rd at 35.1308, -83.1558 and go 2.6
    • Sharp L on Mill Creek Rd at Church at 35.1485, -83.1779 and go 0.9
    • Bear L on Cloud Catcher Ln (not the hard L) paralleling the main rd, go 0.6 and park at dead end.
      • Sign: “Private Drive. No Thru Traffic.” You’re not ‘Thru Traffic’ and Private Drives do not forbid public use unless specifically stated.
      • Limited parking at Hamburg gap, on the L, just before a 180 degree curve to gate w/no trespassing sign.
      • Face away from gate. Follow path leading over a small hump with a FS marker.
      • Online comments say this route is much easier than via Cole Gap.
    • Room to park 8 cars if they all cooperate. 1 car there at 10:00 on a clear fall Saturday. 4 cars at 10:15, and getting crowded. Don’t block the road and do pick up other people’s litter. Legally, I think we’ve established right-of-way, but if the road owners put up a gate, arguing with the gate will be… challenging.
  • Trailhead: 35.14141,-83.19653

Trail Guide From Cole Gap via Shortoff Mountain

  • The trail used to go north, then jog a little east and head straight up the ridge line, meeting the gravel road at the road’s hairpin turn at 35.13346,-83.18660
  • It now swings west, skirting the summit and approaches the summit from the WNW via a series of switchbacks.
  • See the updated route at the web site.
  • Some reviewers say 7.5 hours round trip and closer to 13 miles.
  • It appears they rerouted the trail to avoid private property. That’s understandable.
  • Duration: 6.0 miles
  • Trailhead altitude: 4270’
  • Summit altitude: 5127’
  • GPS tracks/waypoints:
    • Trailhead: 35.10448,-83.2014
    • Summit: 35.1357, -83.1914

Trail Guide From Hamburg Gap

  • Duration: 0.9 miles, 950’ climb, 0:55 up and 0:35 down in 2021.
  • Navigation: This map shows the trail and that the trail crosses from public to private lands as it switches back several times.
  • Trailhead altitude: 4200’ (from the Forest Service topo at caltopo)
  • Summit altitude: 5127’
  • GPS tracks/waypoints:
    • Trailhead: 35.14141,-83.19653
    • Cut-over: 35.13865,-83.19302 - If you look west at this point, you can see a manway cutting over to the trail from Cole Gap. The Cole Gap trail is longer and less steep between its switchbacks.
    • Summit: 35.1357, -83.1914
  • Trailhead altitude: 4550’
  • Summit altitude: 5127’

Summit Guide

  • Hang antenna from tree: Yes, or from tower; space to guy mast: Yes
  • Unique features:
    • Great views from fire tower. Has metal roof, so set up nearby.

See Also