Big Scaly Mountain & The Catstairs (9-1-15)
Big Scaly Mountain (or, if you prefer, simply Scaly Mountain) is one of the rugged little peaks that sit astride the venerable Bartram Trail of southwestern North Carolina. Rising from the Blue Valley just a few miles north of the Georgia line, Scaly none-the-less doesn't demand a particularly long or difficult hike to enjoy its views but relatively few folks know about it regardless. Busy NC-106 runs right beneath it, on its way between Clayton, Georgia and the resort community of Highlands, NC, but the steepness of the terrain entirely hides the peak from view. Crossing the highway at the Osage Mountain Overlook, the Bartram Trail leads about two very uphill miles to the open summit slabs. From the top is one of the finer views of the southern Blue Ridge escarpment the region offers.
As you probably have already figured out if you've seen my other albums, the easy route isn't always the way I like to tackle my peaks and for Big Scaly Mountain I had something special in mind. The ridge the trail climbs on the ascent is known as The Catstairs,a very rugged series of cliffs that the Bartram Trail is careful to circumnavigate on its way to Big Scaly. I had recently heard that there were some interesting and beautiful rock outcrops to see atop the Catstairs if I was willing to do a bit of off-trail scrambling. Sounded fun to me so I plotted my route and prepared for a mini-adventure. That said, I wouldn't recommend this off-trail detour to the average hiker. It was brutally steep in places and thick with undergrowth. The views from the traditional route up Scaly are equally beautiful so I'd just stick to that if you decide to visit. So, come on along with me and see what I found...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.028930, -83.282043
Route Type: Inverted Lollipop Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: ~4.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:45
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 1-5 people
Min. Elevation: 3,680' Max. Elevation: 4,804'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,124' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 562'
Trails Used (blaze color): Bartram Trail (yellow)