Grounded Graphics -- Scott Sanders

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Smokey Mountain National Park

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Tri Corner area and Balsam Mountain trail

Smoky Mountain National Park

Balsam Mountain Trail to Tri Corner Knob Shelter area.

September 2008

Drop a car at Pin Oak Gap, and climb the Balsam Mountain trail to Laurel Gap Shelter.  You’ll join paths with the Benton MacKay Trail on the way to the shelter.  Note:  Contact the Park to get reservations for ALL shelters.  They’ll fill you in with details.  You may not camp without a permit!

The climb is long and steep in places, but the forest is pretty.  Mushrooms of many varieties are everywhere.  Views of the surrounding mountains are occasional, but impressive.  Laurel Gap Shelter has a water source, picnic table and a wire fence cover to discourage the bears.  Throughout the hike, you’ll see a variety of firs, oaks, hardwoods, mosses, some ferns, and fallen trees.  It’s a pretty pleasant trail and we only saw two other hikers on the entire trip.  It was mid week in September.

Day two

Continue following the Balsam Mountain trail.  The Benton MacKaye will separate to the right after a half mile.  You’ll bear to the left.

A long “ridge run” takes you over to Tricorner Knob.  Eight of the South Beyond 6000 peaks are in this Tri Corner area.  You’ll pass Big Cataloocheee, Luftee, Yonganuska, Marks Knob along the Balsam Mountain Trail.  Tri Corner Knob is near the intersection of the AT and Balsam Mountain Trail.  A right, on the AT will take you to Mt Guyot, and Old Black.  South on the AT will take you (0.1 miles) to the Tri Corner Shelter.  Further south on the AT will take you to Mt Chapman and Mt Sequoyah.

Spend the second night at Tri Corner Shelter.  It’s a comfortable place with lots of history.  It’s popular with the AT crowd.  The shelter has all the amenities you’d want in a shelter – water, bear cables, out houses, a chimney, and a double racked sleeping are that could hold 15 people.

We opted to hike 11 miles back to the car on day three (it’s downhill), but you could easily hike back to Laurel Gap and stay making this an easy 4 day, 3 night trip.


wild turkeys in the fog


Lots of interesting mushroom varities on the trail



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