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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
This segment of the Appalachian Trail is just a short drive away from Asheville, NC and a great pit stop for anyone traveling through the area.
Starting from Sam's Gap, the trail begins with a steep climb to get you warmed up.
Less than 2 miles in, there is a clearing that serves as a great picnic spot for a short day hike. There are multiple shuttle services that stop here.
Some offer point to point section hike options, and others take thru-hikers into town for a resupply. After a brief descent, the trail crosses a dirt road along private property and a shelter not long after.
The main climb to Big Bald begins here.
The shelter is a great camping opportunity and is often full during thru-hiker season.
In the offseason, you would likely have it to yourself.
After a steep approach to the summit, you are rewarded with panoramic views of both North Carolina and Tennessee.
A USGS survey marker denotes the summit of the bald.
The strong winds make it a volatile place to camp, but many push their luck in order to get an unadulterated view of the stars. While many turn around here for a 13-mile round trip day hike, the AT continues down to Little Bald just a few hundred feet below. Following a few more miles, a small sign denotes an overlook just off the trail, a landmark known as High Rocks.
Take a few minutes to take in the view before re-entering the "green tunnel" and heading to Nolichucky River.