1. Start at the Bartram Parking area at the end of Wayah Road, near the Raft Put-in Area. Head north on the Bartram on a paved walkway to single track on the other side of Highway 19. This is the first tough climb, to Cheoah Bald. The first part of the trail is pretty overgrown in the summer and the climbs are pretty deep in leaves in the fall and winter. Plenty of water and lots of creek crossings, including one you can't rock hop. You will connect with the AT south, shortly before you reach Cheoah Bald. Once at Cheoah Bald, take the AT south down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. (I don't remember where water is, but there is a shelter below Cheoh, so I imagine there is water there.) Crew access (and restaurant, store at NOC)) 13.2 total miles.
3. Head south on Appalachian Trail 9.3 miles to Wayah Bald. There is a long climb (about 30 minutes for me) and then it becomes more rolling to Icewater Springs shelter. The spring runs right in front of the shelter, and for that reason, I do not use it. You will have a long descent (a little over a mile) to Burningtown Gap. You could have crew access you at Burningtown Gap. About a half mile past the gap is a good water source. The trail is nice from here to Wayah, runnable until the climb up Wayah which is not that bad. There is a shelter and a sign that points to a water source, but the water is quite a ways off the trail. The Bartram and AT will run together here for a while. As you climb up to Wayah, there is a spring where I usually get water. At Wayah, be prepared for lots of people at the tower (which is always jarring after so long in the quiet woods). There are pit toilets here. Crew Access
5. Continue steeply (very steeply/butt slide in points) downhill to Nantahala Lake. There is water right before you reach the lake and also a creek running into the lake shortly thereafter. Take the paved road and go right. Be careful during the summer for traffic. You will pass a restaurant and small store. 4.1 miles downhill. Crew access.
6. Continue on Bartram to where you started. 12.4 miles. The trail runs along the river very briefly, takes a gravel road through the campground and then heads back to the river. There are bathrooms in the campground and I assume they are open in the summer, but I have never tried them. Be alert to where the trail leaves this road and heads down to the river. Most of this section is rolling until you hit the climb up Rattlesnake Knob. It tends to get overgrown and can be a little confusing because it will follow an old forest road for awhile then abruptly leave it for singe track. There is abundant poison ivy in places and a couple of small streams. You're at a lower elevation, so it is also hotter and buggier. Before you get to Rattlesnake Knob, you will cross a creek that usually gets my feet wet Shortly after that, there is an intersection with Piercy Creek Trail. (If you had some sort of issue, you could take this trail, which is rocky and wet but downhill, to the Nantahala River, cross it, and then head left a mile or two back to your car.) The climb up Rattlesnake is not overly steep, but at this point, it just seems to go forever. There are a couple spots you could get water, but it would be better to
fill up at the creek rather than take a chance that they are dry. You'll finally top out, hit some narrow singletrack with hairpin curves and steep dropoffs and pop out at a water tower. Take the nice gravel road for a long downhill, where you will end up back where you started. .
This second description is a 100K course with a little out and back to bump up the mileage. It starts/ends in a different place on the loop and ends with a killer climb.
Goal: sub 18 hour
Course description with mileage and goal times.
1. Start/finish on Otter Creek Road, 3.2 miles from Tellico Gap. (Just past last old house on left. Parking place past there on right at forest road gate). Run 3.2 miles to Tellico Gap. 1:00 am
2. Head south on Appalachian Trail 9.3 miles to Wayah Bald. Crew access there. 3:45 am
3. Continue south until the Bartram Trail intersects. Take the Bartram toward Nantahala Lake. 3.9 miles downhill. Crew access at Sawmill Gap on Dirty John Road. 4:454. Continue downhill to Nantahala Lake and the Lakeside Store. 4.1 miles downhill. Crew access. 5:45 am
5. Follow Bartram to Appletree Group Campground. 4.9 miles. Crew access. 7:15 am
6. Continue on Bartram to Winding Stairs, where the raft put-in is. 12.4 miles. Crew access. 10:15 am
7. Climb 3000 in 5.1 miles with 7 stream crossings up to Cheoah Bald. Then take the AT south down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Crew access (and restaurant). 13.2 total miles. 2:30 pm.
8. Continue south on the AT, climbing back up to Tellico Gap. I did part of this on Saturday and there were a lot of steep, narrow areas on the trail, along with a lot of slick leaves. This might take some time. 8 miles. Crew access. 5 pm
9. Arrive at Tellico Gap, and head back down Otter Creek to the finish. 3.25 miles. 5:45 pm.