Up Mt. Sterling

On Mt. Sterling Trail
On Mt. Sterling Trail

Yesterday, Anna Lee Zanetti and I went up to Mt. Sterling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to scout a Friends of the Smokies hike. Now why would we be checking out a hike that we’re going to lead in July?

We’ve already scouted the April hike, which, by the way, is almost filled. The next two hikes can’t be checked out right now because either the road is closed (Hyatt Ridge) or I didn’t want to trudge in snow at almost 6,000 ft. (Charlies Bunion). But Mt. Sterling was just right for the day.

We started out at Sterling Gap on NC 284, historically known as the Cataloochee Turnpike. If you read about the Mt. Sterling hike in Hiking the Carolina Mountains, you’ll learn about the historic significance of Sterling Gap. I’ll also retell it on the hike.

Anna Lee in the snow
Anna Lee in the snow

The trail takes you up, up, up to Mt. Sterling at 5,850 ft. Plenty of snow on the trail but it was soft snow that people had tread on.

The conditions will be different when we lead the hike. But we’ll still have to climb about 2,000 feet to get to the top. And this is the shortest way up to the mountain.

Most of the hike is in the trees. As we got closer to the top, we walked by Frazer fir and red spruce trees. We came upon an open view that makes me stop every time.

Top of Mt. Sterling
Top of Mt. Sterling

But the best view is from the top of the tower.

I usually climb to the top but yesterday the steps were icy and I went back down after only getting past the first staircase. The tower, which was a classic fire tower, is now used for a radio repeater.

No one was staying at Campsite #38. I tried my hand at a video from my phone. Obviously I have a lot to learn about how to handle the phone as a video camera.

It must be spring break for the area colleges. We met two women on top and several groups on the way up as we came down.

Friends of the Smokies will be leading this hike on Tuesday, July 12. Right now is not too early to sign up at hike.friendsofthesmokies.org.

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