|Hump Mountain on a chilly February morning|
From Hot Springs, the Fifty Trail continues on the Appalachian Trail northbound to the Virginia Border. This section of the trail features a number of enigmatic ‘Balds’ the most outstanding of which is Hump Mountain, shown in the photo above. These summits are not high enough to be above timberline but it is theorized that they are remnants of tundra from the Ice age, kept clear by mega-fauna in order to sustain their favored habitat and later reinforced by America’s first peoples who regularly burned these lands in order to continue to support the game that they hunted.
The trail drops down to the Nolichucky River and the town of Erwin, Tennessee, then climbs again to Beauty Spot (another Bald) and Unaka Mountain, which is higher but wooded, and Roan Mountain where wooded land is again abundant on some of the highest ground in the region. After the Roan highlands the trail descends to and crosses US 19E and after passing Jones Falls (be sure to take the short side trail to see this), the trail turns westward leaving North Carolina behind and plunging into Tennessee. The route follows the long ridge of Iron Mountain with panoramic views of Watauga Lake then crosses 'Cross Mountain,' a high saddle, to the long ridge of Holston Mountain and follows that northeast to the Virginia State Line.
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
Best of the Appalachian Trail: Combined with North Carolina’s ‘Heart of’ section, this continuous 101.7 mile route tracks the state line almost precisely. Follow the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Allen Gap, (Tennessee Hwy. 70, NC Hwy 208) to US 19E near the Mountain Harbour Hostel. See the North Carolina segment for further detail.