Trail Notes: Return to Yellow Mountain Gap

Trail Team 11

The first view of the valley as you walk into the overlook area. (B.Stack/WJHL)

The Place: Avery County, N.C.
The Hike: To Yellow Mountain Gap

For some people, the roughly 3-mile roundtrip up a U.S. Forest Service road doesn’t qualify as a hike. However, the incline all the way up to the overlook can make this a calf-burner.

(At least it’s not uphill both ways?)

My first visit to Yellow Mountain Gap was the end of an ill-fated backpacking trip. The goal had been for Carver’s Gap to 19E. However, I got sick and my hiking buddy and I ended up hitching back to Roan Mountain.

This time, my friend Mochi and I decided to drive up Roaring Creek Road on the North Carolina side to the parking lot that’s the trailhead for this hike.

The graveled road/trail up to the gap makes for a pleasant walk, except for the uphill incline. The sides of the approximately 1.4 mile hike are bordered with a bevy of wildflowers and fungi. Mochi kept asking me what different fungi species were. I’m more of a wildflower person, so I’m going to have to brush up on fungi!

Trail side fungi on the way up to YMG. (B.Stack/WJHL)

After walking upwards for what may feel slightly like forever, you finally see a small, white pipe sticking out of the mountain to your left. This is a water source for hikers. There’s nothing like water fresh out of the mountain – after you filter it, of course.

Practically steps past that, you will spot another trail headed up mountain to the right. This is the spur trail, connecting this little forest road to the Appalachian Trail. You want to keep marching forward, ignoring that trail, unless you’re planning to hike up to the A.T.

Just a bit farther past the water and the spur, the trail opens up.

Waist-high wildflowers and blackberry bushes (sadly not ripe) usher you onto this little piece of paradise.

The Yellow Mountain Gap overlook is also home to one of the most famous A.T. shelters – the Overmountain Shelter. It’s a two-story barn with space for plenty of hikers to roll out their sleeping bags and hang up their hammocks.

The National Forest Service closed the big red barn down in September 2019, within a couple weeks of my overnight at YMG, citing structural concerns. To try to keep people out, they’ve looped caution tape along the main entrance and partially blocked the entrance.

Small mistake for this trip: the overlook area predominately faces southeast. While we got to see some sundown colors, it wasn’t as spectacular as the sunset from someplace like Round Bald. There were still plenty of pinks and golds in the sky.

If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike with a spectacular view, by all means check this out. If you’re going for sunset, make sure to take a jacket with you!

If you’d like to do more hiking in the area, there’s also a couple access points for the Overmountain Victory Trail off Roaring Creek. You can read more about that trail here.

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