The North Carolina Bartram Trail was established by the N.C. Bartram Trail Society to honor naturalist William Bartram, who spent four years (1773-1777) exploring the Southeast documenting the flora and fauna of “the New World.” The route (there are Bartram Trails in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama as well) roughly approximates the route Bartram took on his travels (documented in his book, “Travels”). Of the more than 600 miles of trail in western North Carolina’s rugged Nantahala National Forest, the 42 on this trip are among the most challenging. Save for an 8.5-mile stretch in the middle, this section of the Bartram is either rising precipitously or dropping so. There are few opportunities to recover; the last 6 miles, up Ledbetter Creek to 5,049-foot Cheoah Bald, is especially challenging, gaining more than 3,000 vertical feet, much of that over the first four miles. Fortunately, the trail is well-marked, easy to follow and the tread itself is in good repair.

More info: Bartram Trail; North Carolina Bartram Trail Society

Map: “An Interpretive Hiking Map of North Carolina’s Bartram Trail, North Carolina Bartram Trail Society”

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: N.C. Bartram Trail in a larger map

nc bartram
Location: From west of Franklin to Cheoah Bald

Nearest town: Franklin

Latitude: N35 10.905

Longitude: W83 26.161

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Distance: 42 miles (with numerous shorter options)

Loop/one-way: One-way

Time to complete: Varies, but plan to spend the day.