Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
3,472.00 ft (1,058.27 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
15.90 mi (25.59 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

When you’ve got the 2,200 miles of National Scenic Trail known as “The AT” weaving about from Georgia to Maine within easy driving distance of over 110 million people, the question is less “Should I do a hike on the AT?” and more “Which section of the AT should we hike this time?” With hundreds of gorgeous sections of the Appalachian Trail accessible to so many people, it becomes popular to hike the nice bits and pieces when you can for those who don’t have the time or desire to do the whole thing in one go. The section from Burningtown Gap to Winding Stair Gap that traverses Siler Bald is one of those especially scenic bits and pieces.

Siler Bald sits high on the crest of the Nantahala Mountains just west of Franklin, North Carolina and is easily driveable from Atlanta, Asheville, Knoxville, Greenville, and more. The mountain is not to be confused with Silers Bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but they are both named after the same Siler family. Silers Bald is named after William and Jesse Siler, the latter being a prominent western North Carolinian who grazed sheep and cattle on the summit.

Point-to-point hiking can be especially rewarding because you feel like you’re always making forward progress and seeing new terrain, but it does come with a set of challenges. The two trailheads are about an hour’s drive apart and thus require either going with a group to leave cars at both ends, hitchhiking, or arranging private transport. The end result is very much worth the hassle, though, since you can traverse over 15 miles of the AT without ever needing to hike the same mile twice.

Fall colors are especially good here in the first three weeks of October when colors start changing at the high elevations and working their way down into the valleys. The first trees to turn are the deep red sourwoods, tulip poplar, and black walnut, which turn yellow despite the name, and black gum, which turn orange and red. American beech and yellow birch turn into a deep golden early as well, with carotenoids and anthocyanins turn these leaves darker and warmer throughout the season through exposure to sunlight.

Starting at Burningtown Gap, start making your way south along the AT, which will climb steadily for the first couple of miles until you get a short reprieve only to continue your ascent to Wayah Bald. At the top of Wayah Bald there will be a lookout tower, picnic area, bathrooms, and a place to throw things away. Take advantage of this before you continue. Another short 400-foot climb will come shortly after losing some of your elevation before a long descent to Wayah Gap.

South of Wayah Gap another long climb will bring you to the best views of the hike at Siler Bald. There are two places here to sleep, either near the summit or in one of the few tent locations, but it is more likely that you’ll be staying in the shelter about 500 feet below the summit. The shelter is also near a water source, so this may be preferable to the views at the summit for your campsite anyway. The following day is mostly downhill with a couple of short climbs thrown in before you reach the end at Winding Stair Gap. Make sure to bring your camera with plenty of batteries, because there are more views along this trail than are typical in the “Green Tunnel” that is the AT overall.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Summer
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

2

Pros

Great views. Low crowds. Fall colors.

Cons

One-way trips are logistically difficult.

Trailhead Elevation

4,277.00 ft (1,303.63 m)

Highest point

5,396.00 ft (1,644.70 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,580.00 ft (481.58 m)

Features

Potable water
Backcountry camping
Shelters
Old-growth forest
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia
Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

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