Hike the Appalachian Trail to Siler Bald near Franklin, NC, and score some exceptional, 360-degree views from a sun-drenched, grassy summit.
LOCATION:on the Appalachian Trail near Franklin, NC
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map
North Carolina’s mountain balds are simply exceptional: sun-drenched summits topped 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 excellent 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.
Fresh breezes. Abundant sunshine. 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 gorgeous, generous views at the summit.
Siler Bald via Wayah Gap: 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 follow the AT southbound to 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 broad 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 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 an 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 summit.
The adventure makes a final climb, and broad, sweeping views start to unfold from behind. (To help protect the grassy mountaintop from erosion, hike through the grass, and not the 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 mountain’s grass-covered 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 the mountain’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 Vista Trail, turning left on the Appalachian Trail to descend to Wayah Gap. The return hike is relatively fast 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 adventure at just over 3.6 miles.
(Note: this hike climbs the Siler Bald located near Wayah Bald just west of Franklin, NC. There’s another mountain bald with a similar name in the Great Smoky Mountains, Silers Bald, located near Clingman’s Dome and Andrews Bald.)
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
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Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.
35.153499, -83.580654 // N35 9.20993 W83 34.83923