Siler Bald: hiking the Appalachian Trail via Wayah Gap
Hike the Appalachian Trail near Franklin, NC to the grassy summit of Siler Bald, and grab some exceptional, 360-degree views.
North Carolina’s balds are simply exceptional: sun-drenched summits toped in golden grasses, rocky outcrops and wildflowers by the millions. And Siler Bald is no exception. The mountain’s broad summit, located just off the Appalachian Trail near Franklin, NC, offers exceptional 360-degree panoramas from its domed, grassy summit. It’s a gorgeous, view-packed hike, a moderate climb from nearby Wayah Gap through a beautiful hardwood forest – and one of our western North Carolina favorites.
Cool breezes. Abundant sunshine on fair-weather days. Stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Nantahala National Forest. Pack a picnic. Toss a frisbee. Catch a stunning sunrise or sunset. Stargaze. Or just relax and soak up the generous, gorgeous views at the summit.
(Note: this hike climbs Siler Bald, located near Wayah Bald just west of Franklin. There’s another bald with a similar name in the Great Smoky Mountains, Silers Bald, that’s located near Clingmans Dome.)
Appalachian Trail to Siler Bald: the hike
The hike departs from the picnic area at Wayah Gap, located just off NC SR1310, Wayah Road (view maps and driving directions). The hike trails eastbound through the picnic area, quickly coming to a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail and turning right to hike the AT southbound toward Siler Bald. The trail begins a nearly-continuous climb to the mountain’s summit, ducking under a dense tunnel of rhododendron before crossing a rustic wood bridge at .2 mile.
The AT meanders through the forest, climbing elevation through wide switchbacks and crossing a small, trickling spring at .5 mile. Between-the-trees views start to emerge on trail right as the Appalachian Trail arcs westbound. The forest is beautiful, especially in late-afternoon autumn light, as the hardwoods display their showy, colorful fall hues.
The trail swings eastbound at .8 mile, continuing the climb. The AT passes a Snowbird Gap sign at 1.5 miles, just before exiting tree cover and entering a grassy clearing. A trail leads to the Siler Bald AT shelter to the left. The hike hangs a right, departing the Appalachian Trail to hike trail #373A, the Siler Bald Vista Trail, to the Siler Bald summit.
The hike makes a final climb, as wide, sweeping views start to unfold from behind. To protect grassy mountaintop from erosion, hike through the grass (and not the often deeply-rutted trail) to the summit. The trail passes a small campsite at 1.7 miles before arcing southeast and making the final summit climb.
The hike reaches the Siler Bald summit at 1.8 miles. Expansive views unfold in every direction, stretching far into the surrounding Nantahala National Forest, toward Franklin, and south toward Georgia. The fire-tower-topped Wayah Bald is visible to the northeast, as is nearby Wine Spring Bald to the north (topped with communications towers). Albert Mountain, another exceptional NC Appalachian Trail hike, is visible on the far horizon to the southeast.
There’s a stone plaque at the summit, marking Siler Bald’s official elevation and highest point at 5216 feet, and a stone campfire ring.
The grassy summit just begs for relaxation, but when it’s time to return to the trailhead, the hike turns to retrace its steps on the Siler Bald spur trail, turning left on the Appalachian Trail to descend to Wayah Gap. The return hike is fairly quick and easy, and nearly all downhill. The hike reaches the side trail to the Wayah Gap picnic area, turning left off the AT and completing the hike at just over 3.6 miles.
Wayah Gap to Siler Bald: Appalachian Trail: Directions & Details
Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.
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