Transylvania County High Point Trip Report

Chestnut Bald

Date: June 27, 1999
Author: Edward Earl

Chestnut Bald is just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway between NC-215 and US-276. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic tourist highway maintained by the National Park Service; however, on the day I climbed Chestnut Bald, the visibility was socked in with intermittent rain. (Transylvania is the wettest county in the two Carolinas with 72 inches of moisture per year.) As I approached the area on the BRP from the west, there was a parking lot on the right with a sign that said, "East Fork Overlook, Elev. Here 4995'". Great, I thought. With the summit just over 6000' and a required 1000' gain for "Earlize" this peak, this would be the perfect place to start.

So I parked here and donned my hiking boots and Gore-Tex parka and headed up the road to the Graveyard Fields trailhead, where a use trail on the opposite side of the road heads uphill to another trail that follows the ridge crest parallel to the highway.

The trail crosses the Parkway several times, the last of which is at the turnoff of the spur road to the Shining Rock trailhead. From here the trail heads over the summit of Silvermine Bald, down to a gap, and up the west flank of Chestnut Bald. The topo map shows the trail heading directly to the summit of Chestnut Bald and then tuning down its north flank, but when there I found that the trail turned north (and then wandered around to the west side of the peak) without ever reaching the summit. So I had to climb the summit by bushwhacking through heavy brush, some of which had thorns.

It was very slow going, but I finally made the summit amidst a field of pine tree trunks so close together (1-2 feet) that I occasionally had to pry them apart to pass. It was almost like being in a bamboo forest.

Because of the heavy bushwhacking near the summit of Chestnut Bald, it may be a contender for the toughest NC county HP. Years ago I climbed Mt Guyot, Haywood county HP, now considered the toughest NC county HP. Which is tougher depends on how you measure toughness. Mt Guyot has a longer off-trail distance, but Chestnut Bald has tougher bushwhacking.