Where: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wildness, with the Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District
Trail: Hangover Lead South Trail, ~2.8 miles one way from Big Fat Gap to the junction with the Haoe Lead Trail at Haoe Summit.
Trailhead: Big Fat Gap, (From US129 near the TN-NC Border, take Forest Service Road 62 to Big Fat Gap)
Sherpa Guides: http://www.sherpaguides.com/north_carolina/mountains/snowbird_mountains/joyce_kilmer_slickrock_wilderness.html
State of NC: http://main.nc.us/graham/hiking/rangerhq.html
Jan 1, 2010
We booked a cabin in Bryson City for New Years Day and woke up predawn headed for the hills. With check-in not till the afternoon, we went straight for the trailhead. After a very lonely drive along the Dragon we pulled in to Big Fat Gap at around eleven to get the last remaining parking spot.
We felt out of place, being the only vehicle without fresh carcass in the back seat. But the trail was empty. The Hangover Lead Trail heads straight up the ridge line of Hangover Lead, steeply at times but very forgiving on the whole. The trail ends near a spectacular overlook near Haoe Peak, with 360 degree views of the Great Smokies and the Cheoah Mountains.
From Big Fat Gap on out, everything was covered in hoar frost.
There are several decent campsites along the way on the way, though dry. At one point near the top of the ridge, we had to scramble over some tricky, icy patches.
We topped out on a spectacular heath bald with imposing views of The Bob and the Fodderstack Knobs.
I realized on later trips to Joyce Kilmer that we didn't actually make it to the Hangover on that frosty day, but we still found what we were looking for.