You really need to do this hike. Seriously!
OK! So it’s off the beaten path. I’ll give you that. But you won’t be disappointed. The views from Whiterock Mountain and Jones Knob are worth it. I promise!
And, it’s one of the easiest hikes along the Bartram Trail (BT). This is a promise too.
Granted. I haven’t hiked the entire BT – yet – but this section is certainly nothing like the grueling section from Wallace Branch to Wayah Bald. That’s practically straight up hill for 11 miles.
Fortunately – and you’ll be happy to know this – you do most of your climbing in the car on your way to the trailhead for Whiterock Mountain. What a relief, right?
With A Little Help From My Friends
Amazing things happen when you have supportive friends.
I’m starting a new venture. It’s called Mountain Trails Yoga and it’s a fusion of two of my favorite things; the cardio workout of a vigorous hike and the strength, balance, and flexibility of yoga. And it’s a blast too.
Well, I mentioned this idea to some friends who just so happen to be board members of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society and they immediately started suggesting great places for a yoga hike.
One of their suggestions was the hike from Jones Gap (elev 4360) to Whiterock Mountain (elev 4480) on the BT. And it turned out to be a perfect place for a yoga hike – complete with open rocky balds and breathtaking views.
It’s the sort of mountain top you might imagine a yogi sitting cross-legged, practicing levitation.
So, anyway, we picked a day, invited more friends in high places – a couple who work for the National Park Service and another couple who are scientists at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory – and headed out.
On The Trail Again
Once you get to the trailhead and put on your pack, go north through the Forest Service gate and along the old service road. This will pass through a wildlife clearing which ends at the junction of the yellow blazed BT and the blue blazed trail to Jones Knob (elev 4622).
If you’ve got the time, take the short trail up to Jones Knob. You’ll get a great view of Whiterock Mountain and wonderful perspective of the whole hike.
Beyond Jones Knob, the BT basically follows a gently undulating ridge line towards Whiterock Mountain. I’d classify this hike as easy to moderate and very family friendly. Just be mindful of your children and pets once you reach the open rock faces.
The trail winds through rhododendron tunnels and shady hardwood forests. Besides the occasional view between the trees, there are two points of interest between Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain.
The first one is the graveyard. It’s not really a graveyard but it certainly gives the appearance of one. The graveyard is an open rock face, looking over the Tessentee Valley and toward Whiterock. Large flat boulders litter the rocky prominence, giving the impression of toppled tombstones. It’s a nice spot to rest, have a picnic, do some yoga or simply contemplate your life.
The second point of interest is Whiterock Gap (elev 4120). There’s a well-marked water source – one of two on this section of trail – right below Whiterock Gap, which adds to its appeal as a comfortable campsite.
And this spot could come in handy for you. A lot of people will visit Whiterock for the spectacular mountain sunsets. So if you’d rather not do a “night hike” after the sun goes down you can always camp here instead and hike out in the morning.
Not long after Whiterock Gap you’ll come to the blue blazed junction for Whiterock Mountain (the BT continues on its way to Fishhawk Mountain). This short spur gives way to a rocky path that eventually opens up dramatically to the most amazing views in the southern Appalachians.
This is Whiterock!
You’ve made it! Sit and rest and bask in the sunshine. Take in the views of the Tessentee Valley below you and the southern Nantahala Mountains to your west. On a good day you can see Albert Mountain and maybe even Wayah Bald.
Saying you can see forever might sound like an exaggeration, but when you’re up here on Whiterock…you can almost believe it.
Don’t rush! Take your time and enjoy this magical place. And when you’re ready, simply retrace your steps to the trailhead at Jones Gap.
What is it about sitting on top of a mountain that makes your spirit soar? Drop us a comment and let us know what it is for you.
See ya on the trail,
Trail at a glance
Mileage: 3.5 miles one way to Whiterock Mtn – plus an additional 0.3 mile to Jones Knob
Elevation change: 120 ft to Whiterock/262 ft to Jones Knob
Water sources: Streams
Trailhead: From Franklin, NC: drive 9.5 miles on 64/28 towards Highlands. Turn right on Gold Mine Rd. Travel 0.8 mile and then turn left on Dendy Orchard Rd. Go 2.6 miles and turn right on FR 4522 (Jones Gap Rd). Drive 2 more miles to the Jones Gap trailhead.