Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina

Day 1364

     We hiked the Bartram Trail in the Nantahala National Forest to a lookout tower on Wayah Bald said to present a spectacular 360 degree view of the Nantahala, Appalachian, and Great Smoky Mountains. We were not disappointed.  

     Wayah Bald is the highest point on the trail where it crosses the Appalachian Trail (which is blazed white, for those that are interested).

     The trail is named for William Bartram, born April 20, 1739 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a naturalist, who crossed here in 1776 looking for new plants.

     The drive to Wayah Bald can be a dizzying one if you aren’t used to hairpin turns and switchbacks. From the bottom of the mountain at 2,095 feet above sea level, to Wayah Bald lookout tower at 5,342 feet is a 40 minute 13.2 mile drive over a winding very narrow road. The last 4.5 miles are on a dirt fire service road. A Bald is an area of a mountain top not covered by trees. Wayah Bald was named by the Cherokee Indians who called the area Wa-ya, Cherokee for wolf, which inhabited the area.

     The tower was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corp to accommodate personnel observing the Nantahala National Forest, keeping watch over the area for wildfires.

   Three miles from the top, we came across the first forest ranger station of the newly formed Nantahala National Forest, built in 1916.

     The forest got it’s name from the Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noonday Sun.” Because of the dense trees, the sun only hit the ground at high noon (as opposed to low noon?).

     We then went to Bridal Veil Falls, a 45-foot waterfall not too far from the lookout tower. I could not find it.

     Oh, there it is. I was under it the whole time.