Bartram Trail Backpacking Guide

The Bartram Trail is a 116 mile (187 km) pathway through the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. It was voted by readers of Backpacker Magazine to be the No.1 U.S. long distance trail for solitude. Sure enough, when I hiked the BT in 2011, I didn’t encounter a single other hiker. However, the lack of on-trail traffic left me puzzled. If the Bartram Trail really was selected No.1 for solitude, but hardly anyone ever hikes it, then who voted for it? 

All logistical details have been updated as of January, 2017. The mystery remains unresolved………..

Distance:  116 miles (187 km)

Average Time: 6 to 7 days

Start:  Russell Bridge, GA

Finish:  Cheoah Bald, NC

Highest Point: Wayah Bald 5,385 ft (1,641 m)

Lowest Point: Chattooga River 1,500 ft (460 m)

Bartram Trail Overview Map (

Getting There & Away:

  • Russell Bridge (GPS Coordinates – 34.919484, -83.168664): There is a small car park on the GA side of the bridge. The trailhead can be found opposite the parking area (i.e. south side of the road).
  • Cheoah Bald (GPS Coordinates – 35.32560°N / 83.6807°W) is situated on the Appalachian Trail. Closest road access is Stecoah Gap (NC), from where it is a 5.5 mile uphill hike to the pathway’s northern terminus.

Chattooga River

Maps / Information:

  • Origins: The trail is named after William Bartram, 18th century botanist, writer and all-around outdoorsy type. Between 1773 and 1777 Bartram travelled widely through America’s southeast, manifesting his observations in the form of extensive notes and drawings regarding the region’s flora, fauna and native inhabitants.
  • A Trail in Two Parts: The Bartram Trail consists of two sections – Georgia (38 miles) and North Carolina (78 miles). Each state has its own separate website, maps, guidebook, and even trail markers. Indeed, as of 2016, there doesn’t seem to be a single trail map that covers the entire pathway. Strange.

  • Guide Books: There are two; one for GA and one for NC. As of January, 2017, they come in the form of 8.5×11 spiral bound booklets. Both include detailed mileage points, trekking notes and maps. More than sufficient for navigation purposes on this easy to follow footpath. You can purchase both guides at either of the following websites: Georgia Bartram Trail Group or North Carolina Bartram Trail Society.
  • Caltopo Maps: Free downloadable USGS 7.5 topographic maps for the Bartram Trail.
  • NC Bartram Trail Topo Map: If you’re looking for something a little extra, the NC Bartram Trail Society produce a 1:35,000 interpretive hiking map for the 78 mile NC section of the trail. It includes elevation profiles, places of interest, side trails, flora and fauna information and historical factoids.   

  • Online: The excellent Bartram Trail page at has logistical details, mileage points & detailed trekking notes for the entire trail. Good place to start your BT planning process.


  • Resupply and accommodation options are available in Franklin, NC, situated approximately 70 miles from the southern terminus.
  • Snacks can also be purchased at the Phillips 66 Gas Station (S.R.1310) near Nantahala Lake, NC (93 miles from Russell Bridge).

Nantahala Lake

Route / Conditions:

  • Character: The Bartram Trail winds its way through the southern Appalachians of Georgia and North Carolina. Rhododendron forests, sleepy hollows, impressive waterfalls, scenic lookouts and lots of solitude; there’s a lot to like about this trail.

Rhododendron Forest

  • Signage: As mentioned above, the BT is well marked from start to finish. Georgia has yellow diamond blazes, whereas North Carolina boasts yellow rectangular blazes. Two states, two distinctly marked sections, one trail. (Update: Per Bret in the comments section, as of 2020, the Georgia section of the BT now has yellow rectangular markers as well).
  • Stone Markers: In addition to the above-mentioned signage, the Georgia segment of the BT  is distinguished by some wonderful engraved stone markers. Indeed, they may well be my all-time favourite trail signs. The classic Roman font combined with the weathered appearance, only adds to the historical feel of a trail that follows in the footsteps of a famed 18th-century Naturalist.

Notes & Musings:

  • Wayah Bald: One of the highlights of my Bartram Trail hike was the 360° panorama from Wayah Bald. I managed to time my arrival perfectly. As I watched the sun peek over the horizon, I enjoyed a king-sized serving of granola with powdered milk. It never ceases to amaze me how even the simplest foods taste great when you’re in the outdoors.

  • Ridgetop Views: Some of my favourite memories from hiking the Bartram Trail in November, were the post-foliage views from the ridges. There was one morning in particular when the sky was ablaze with a kaleidoscope of crimson, orange, pale blue and dark grey.

Sunrise on the Bartram Trail.

  • Looking for something longer?: For those with the time and inclination, the Bartram Trail constitutes part of a 583 mile route I put together called the Southeastern Serpentine Trail. The SST combines four different hikes – the Foothills, Benton Mackaye, and Bartram Trails, together with the Smokies section of the AT, to form a continuous long-distance hiking route through some of the less frequented parts of the southern Appalachian mountains.

Benton Mackaye Trail section of the Southeastern Serpentine Trail.


34 Replies to “Bartram Trail Backpacking Guide”

  1. Cam,
    I usually never make any comments but I just wanted to thank you for you blog.
    I’ve enjoyed reading, viewing, and thinking about the various trails you have hiked. This summer (2017) my daughter and I are planning on hiking a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Have you hiked this trail; if so, was it very well marked and defined?
    Keep up the hiking……

    1. Hi Frank,

      No worries at all. Glad you enjoy the blog.

      In regards to the Tahoe Rim Trail, I’ve only ever hiked the section that coincides with the PCT (I think it was around 50 miles). However, from everything I’ve heard it’s not only a spectacular trail, but also a very well marked and maintained one as well. There was an article about the TRT in “Trailgroove” magazine a while back, which has a day-by-day account and some beautiful photos (

      Best of luck for your hike this summer.



  2. Hi Cam
    I’m a Nevis to your blog, and really enjoying it!
    I’m in New York In May, and I’d like to do a 6 day trek somewhere on the East coast, possibly on the AT, but it doesn’t have to be.
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Also, I was thinking of buying a lightweight pack while I’m there, as there’s not much choice in Australia. I’ve heard REI is the best place to shop. Do you have any other suggestions for eg to buy a Gossamer pack, or would I be better off buying it online?
    Appreciate your thoughts
    Many thanks


    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks for the message. In regards to hiking possibilities, there’s a lot of options in the north-east, but for some of the prettier areas such as Vermont, New Hampshire, the Adirondacks and Maine, May is still pretty early in the season. That being said, you can just hop on the train from New York City and be on a nice section of the AT in around 2 hrs or less.

      As for packs, yes, REI has a lot of good options (Granite Gear is one). But a lot of great cottage industry companies such as Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs and ULA mostly sell their packs online.

      Best of luck.



      1. Thanks Cam, I’ll have a look online.
        I think I may be better to buy a pack online and take it with me even if it costs a bit more

  3. Thanks for the write up and gpx. After hiking the Foothills trail last year I have been reading everything I can find online about the Bartram Trail and love the idea of the solitude you mention.

    Did you have any problems finding water and/or campsites on your trip?

    1. No problems with either water or campsites. Apart from perhaps the road walk section, I can’t recall carrying more than a liter at any one time.



  4. So interesting that the BT was considered a Trail of solitude as much of it runs concurrent with the AT. I suspect the season on trail is a big factor (avoiding the hiker bubbles in early spring and early fall).

    There is plenty of gorgeous terrain (Wayah is one of my favorite’s on the southern portion of the AT) and resupply options aren’t too inconvenient.

    Great post Cam!

  5. I am planning a thru-hike (N to S) of Bartram this December (2017). Wondering about your interpretation of footing. Is leaf coverage enough of an issue to slow down your pace? You seem to have hiked in November….what was it like? Were stream crossings difficult? What about wildlife/bears? Any guidance is appreciated, as thru-hikes seem relatively rare.

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the message. I wouldn’t say that leaves were an issue in regards to pace, and none of the stream crossings were difficult. I never saw any bears, or even any bear scat, during my three or four days on the BT. Best of luck on your hike!



      1. I completed the Georgia segment (S to N) on November 16 2017. I found there to be a lot of down trees between Courthouse Gap and Wilson Gap (result of Matthew and of Irma, I suspect), that slowed me down a little in that area. I saw no bears, but did see bear scat.

  6. Cam:
    Just returning home today after hiking BT from Hurrah Ridge to Jones Gap. Also this morning did out/back from Jones Gap to White Rock Mountain. For a thru-hike, how many days/nights did you allow? Any unforeseen difficulties? Water available? Ease of finding campsites? I did see a bear on the trail last September from Scaly Mountain to Hickory Knut. Great website. Thanks.

    1. Depending on the hiker, it can comfortably be done in three or four days, but as I say in the post, I think the average would be around six or seven.

      As to your other questions: 1. No difficulties; 2. Plenty of water. Never carried more than a liter or liter and a half; 3. Loads of camping possibilities.

  7. Great info! Not sure if you’d know the answer to this but I’m planning on hiking the Benton Mackaye Trail and the Bartram Trail at the end of the summer, starting mid to late August. I’m wondering if these trails will be too overgrown at the time considering their light usage. Any thoughts? Thanks

    1. Hi Luke,

      I’m pretty sure both trails would be fine to walk in mid to late August, but it might be a good idea to drop the respective associations an email to confirm.

      Best of luck!


  8. MY FAVORITE TRAIL-The Bartram Trail

    My first long-distance hike was The Appalachian Trail in 1989-90. I enjoyed that hike so much that I went hiking as much as possible and I now have over 12,000 trail miles

    Of all the trails that I have hiked The Bartram Trail is my FAVORITE TRAIL.

    I first hiked the Bartram Trail when I was preparing for my 2003 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. I hiked it again, prior to my 2005 Continental Divide thru-hike. I enjoyed those two Bartram Trail hikes so much that I hiked it three more times and plan on hiking it again.

  9. I’m another fan of the Bartram Trail. After all what other trail features and commemorates a botanist!? Plus, solitude always seems to be plentiful there.

    I stumbled upon your post while searching for how to order the Bartram Trail Map. I just moved back to Georgia after a few years away and needed a new map of my favorite trail. I remember the map having all sorts of delightful historical and natural history tidbits. Went into REI to try to pick up one up and was shocked that they didn’t carry it. The manager said I was the first person in all the time he’s been there that has ever asked about it.

  10. I’m planning to backpack this trail this summer, and had a quick question. What is the cell signal like on the trail? I’m considering getting a satellite communicator if the signal is questionable. I solo hike, and wish to have the ability to check in from the trail each day to keep a few folks in the loop as to where I’m at and how I’m doing. Thanks so much! 🙂

    1. There is no cell phone coverage in many areas. I camped near water, thus at lower elevations, and did not have signal at any of my campsites. I did my check-ins by text message from high points.

  11. Cam,

    I live a day’s drive away and am a solo section hiker. I’ve covered the GA and southern NC section, dayhiked in/out at Wallace Branch, and am plotting my completion.

    Is it a reasonable plan to drive to and park at Stecoah Gap, camp within a half mile, in the morning hire a shuttle to Wallace Branch trailhead, and then hike back to my car? How do I find such a shuttle?

    An alternative might be to drive to and camp near Winding Stairs Parking Area along Hwy 74. In the morning hire a shuttle to Wallace Branch trailhead, and then hike back to my car. Camp again within a half mile, using supplies from the car. Hike Cheoah Bald in/out without my full backpack. Is that reasonable, and how do I find a shuttle for that?

    1. Hi Tom,

      Sorry, but I can’t help you in regards to shuttle information. I hiked the Bartram Trail as part of a longer hike I called the Southeastern Serpentine Trail. My starting and finishing points were Table Rock State Park (SC) and Springer Mtn (GA).

      Best of luck.



  12. Where exactly is the section of the trail featured in the snow-covered picture (last one) in this post? “Benton Mackaye Trail section of the Southeastern Serpentine Trail”

    Thank you

    1. If memory serves it was taken on either the penultimate or the final day of the BMT. So I guess within 50 miles or so from Springer Mountain.

  13. Hey Cam, glad to see you’re details on the hike. I’m planning a thru hike for 2 weeks from now. What’s the status of the road walk? Is it still 14 miles, last I found so far was from 2012 and land had been purchased to cut it in half although, I haven’t found in my research yet that number decreasing. Any intel you have would be appreciated. Did you walk the span of road?

    1. Sorry, I don’t have any updates in regard to the status of the road walk.

      “Did you walk the span of road?”

      Yes, I did the road walk as described in the North Carolina Bartram Trail guidebook (Note: I thought it was around 10 miles, rather than 14 miles, though I could be wrong).

  14. Great site and thanks for the Bartram Trail notes. Just finished the GA section and wanted to say that the trail association has added/replaced the yellow diamond markers with yellow rectangles, which I assume makes it consistent with the NC section. I only noticed about 6 diamond shaped markers left along the entire GA section. Incredibly beautiful trail, enjoyed every mile.

    1. Hey Bret,
      Congrats on your hike, and thank you for the update on the trail signage. I amended the article accordingly.

      1. Hey, thanks for the response! Your article helped me figure out why I was seeing a few diamond shapes mixed in with the new signage. I was confused and wondering what the secret code was, haha.

  15. Thanks for the very educational information. I’ve hiked part of the Georgia trail and parts of the North Carolina trail. Found your article while searching for a map linking the trails together. Now it makes sense. Thanks.

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