Buncombe and Yancey County, NC
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
When Andy mentioned that he wanted to check out some Butts this weekend, I decided to do some research before agreeing to join him.
Google Search: “Big Butt Trail”
Google Result: Did you mean: “Big Butt Tail”
I most certainly did not!
Needless to say, it is not a good idea to be searching for information on this little known trail while at work! After weeding though a wide array of porn sites featuring some exceptionally large backsides, I did come across a bit of information on the Big Butt Trail.
The weather forecast looked perfect for a high elevation hike and I agreed to join Andy on his quest to bag da Big Butt!
Andy and Boone met me in Spartanburg and rode with me up I-26 about 20 miles north of Asheville to Hwy 197 through Barnardsville, NC. Shortly after passing through this metropolis, Hwy 197 turns into a dirt road, and starts winding up the mountain.
The Big Butt trailhead is located about 10 miles NE of Barnardsville at a four way intersection at Cane River Gap, directly across from Ogle Meadows Road. I can only assume that Ogle Meadows offers up a good view of the Big Butt! After Boone was through chasing a pick-up truck up Ogle Meadows Road, we hit the trail.
The Big Butt Trailhead
Temperatures were in the mid 50s to start our hike which was a very welcome break from the summer heat over the last few months!
The first 1.5 miles of trail was a grunt of a climb, gaining about 1,300 feet of elevation. Approximately 25 switchbacks make the climb much more bearable. Early on the trail was in really good shape, but the higher we got, the more overgrown the trail got.
There was a scattering of summer wildflowers, berries, and loads of butterflies along the trail. The butterflies proved very elusive today posing just long enough to tease me into pulling out my camera which would be their signal to flutter away. I only managed one acceptable butterfly photo all day!
After crossing over Flat Spring Knob we made a short descent to a gap at the base of Big Butt. We had not seen a drop of flowing water anywhere and we were not likely to find any further up the trail. Andy was getting worried that he might not have enough water for Boone and decided to go in search of a spring.
Bushwhacking downhill through stinging nettles revealed nothing but bone dry runoff channels and itchy legs! Andy eventually gave up on finding water and we returned to the trail to begin the climb up Big Butt!
The trail does not actually go to the top, but instead skirts around the east side of the Butt about 300-feet below the actual summit. Since Andy and I were determined to bag the Big Butt we knew we had a bit of off trail adventure in store for us.
Actually, as overgrown as the actual trail was, the bushwhack up the Big Butt was not any worse. It turns out that there is not much in the way of views from on top the Big Butt. However, the summit did offer a nice place to break for lunch.
Iggy at the Big Butt Summit Marker
There was way too much growth on this Butt to offer any views, but after searching around the Butt, I did find a crack. A small break in the trees offered up somewhat of a view to the west.
view from Big Butt
Even though we bagged the 5,920-ft Big Butt, the experience was less than satisfying and we wanted more! When it comes to Butts, bigger is not always better so hopefully Little Butt would give us something worth coming for!
The short section of trail between Big Butt and Little Butt offered up a few nice views and was probably my favorite section of the Big Butt Trail.
Butt as for views, the highlight of this hike is the view from Little Butt! To the East, Mount Mitchell and the entire Black Mountain Crest are clearly visible from the naked side of Little Butt!
View of the Black Mountain Crest from Little Butt
After enjoying the view, we continued on descending down a rocky crack on the backside of Little Butt and then up to Point Misery. The trail guide I printed out said there were views from Point Misery, but we didn’t find any.
The entire trail is about 6 miles long, making for a 12-mile out and back hike. Since there are absolutely no water sources along this trail, Andy was concerned about his supply and we didn’t push it all the way to the end. Instead we turned around at about the 4.5 mile mark a short distance past Point Misery.
We looked a little harder for the Point Misery views on the return, but still didn’t find any. The only thing I found on Point Misery was a bloody ankle as a downed tree limb attacked me as I climbed over it.
We took another break on the way back to enjoy some more of the Little Butt view! We only saw three other people on the trail the entire day. One solo backpacker camping on the Little Butt summit, and a couple with a dog that Boone enjoyed playing with here at the Little Butt overlook.
Iggy at Little Butt
The return hike to the trailhead was mostly down hill and we made good time. We were surprised to see three other trucks parked at the trailhead next to my Tacoma considering that the other hikers we encountered all came from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A couple of good-ole boys hanging out in camp chairs drinking beer and a forest ranger greeted us as we completed our hike. One of the guys offered Boone a Beer, but he didn’t offer me one, which was just as well because I had a long drive back.
It was a beautiful day for a hike in the high country!