Jones Gap to Wolf Rock on the Bartram Trail Near Highlands, NC

It was a beautiful day when nine intrepid hikers started out from the Jones Gap trailhead at FR 4522.  We would be hiking the Bartram Trail to Wolf Rock overlook and back, an approximate distance of 9 miles with side trails included.

Getting here is not hard if you have the right directions. From Highlands (you will be driving right through the main part of town), you go west on Hwy. 64 continuing past Dry Falls. Look for a turn to your left marked Turtle Pond Road. I think it’s just past the sign for Vanhook Glade Campground. DSC05150The direction from Highlands to the campground say 4.1 miles. Make your left on Turtle Pond Road and follow it staying to your right. The pavement ends and you will be driving on dirt roads from here. The first dirt road is rough but once you get to FR4522, the road gets better. Make the left on FR4522 and follow it to the end.

Once we got our gear together, we started off down the trail which starts down what looks like it might have been an old forest road into some open meadow where someone had recently mowed the trail. DSC05104 We stopped to take some photos of the Iris and other flowers before moving on to Jones Knob. DSC05107 The trail to Jones Knob starts just on the other side of the open meadow and cuts off to the left, an approximate .8 mile round trip.  There are several viewpoints on this trail.  DSC05112If you keep walking to the end of the trail, past the first two views, there are some places where you can see more views to your left through the shrubbery, but the ledges are much narrower here.  DSC05116I looked for a possible way back to the Bartram from here hoping for a shortcut but didn’t see anything helpful so we turned around and headed back down to the trail intersection.

Our next nice overlook was near Whiterock Gap where you will see an open bald with a view west to your left.  We stopped here for lunch. I know that seems early in the hike but our drive from Greenville was about 2 hours and it seemed appropriate. DSC05124I ate quickly and wandered around to take a few photos here.  We saw a tree which someone later told us was a fringe tree. DSC05120
After lunch, the group got started again heading towards our next point of interest.

At Whiterock Gap, there was a small camp site and a trail down to a creek for water which we did not go down. DSC05130It was during this interlude between views that I stepped over a young rattlesnake. I didn’t see it but the person behind me did. She thinks she stepped on it but it wasn’t fazed and luckily didn’t bite anyone.  But my fellow hiker was pretty shook up as this was her first one!DSC05131
I felt pretty calm but I’ve seen them before and this one was small by comparison. Still just as dangerous though!

Moving on down the trail we came to the turn to Whiterock Mountain.  We did not know what to expect here but it was a fairly gentle up to very impressive views. We would have loved to stay much longer but we lingered 20 minutes or so and then had to move on down the trail.  This is a destination! DSC05139 I’d like to note here that this is the only place we saw anyone on the trail yesterday.  We met four other hikers here but they were leaving so we basically had the trail all to ourselves yesterday.DSC05133 DSC05145

When we got back down to the Bartram to make our way north, you could tell that most people stopped here and turned back.  But we were heading to Wolf Rock and Fishhawk Mountain and needed to keep our momentum going so off we went into the unknown.

As I recall, there were several views through the trees and off to the left through the bushes on this section of the trail. One required a hop over a gap in between two rocks. DSC05152Not much standing room but we took turns. There was what could be another campsite on this trail but I didn’t see any water, just remnants of a fire ring. I don’t know where you would put a tent here though. Maybe hammocks. Not sure.

The group finally made it to the turn to Fishhawk Mountain at what I’m guessing was about 3.3 miles or so.DSC05162 Don’t quote me! The sign indicated it was 528 feet to the top but it felt longer. Blue blazed, very steep, and not well traveled, we found the dedication marker to William Bartram at the top.DSC05157  I was expecting more of a view here so I went wandering past the bare rock at the top and moved off to the right through the trees where there was a decent view from a small bald. We then made our way back down Fishhawk Mountain back to the Bartram Trail.

This is where the trail starts to descend towards Wolf Rock.  We made it there at 3.9 miles from Jones Gap (without side trails) and stopped for a snack and a rest.  This apparently once had nice views but the trees are now growing too tall to see much here. Definitely not a destination at this point.DSC05163

The Buckeye Creek trailhead can be found at mile 8.5 which would be another 4.6 miles from Wolf Rock. There are apparently some other nice views on this trail as you head that way but we would need to save that for another day. DSC05160 Maybe we will try the hike from there some time and hike to the view near Cedar Cliff and Doubletop Fields.  I’m advised there is a big elevation gain to start off with from that side though at 3 miles and 1000 foot gain. I’ll add that one to my list.

The group turned around and made its way back to the trailhead at Jones Gap with a few short water breaks in between.  It had been a long and satisfying day and we topped it off with a little Japanese food when we got back to the Greenville area!


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