Craggy Dome, NC (6-17-14)
Craggy Dome is the highest peak in the sub-range of mountains known locally as the Craggie's. Located just a few miles south of the Black Mountain Range and Mount Mitchell State Park this area, known as the Craggy Gardens, sees a fairly heavy amount of visitation in the summer with one exception...Craggy Dome. With a modern picnic area, visitor center, and the more rugged and accessible Craggy Pinnacle nearby, the trail-less and tree covered Dome sees nary a soul most days save for 6,000-foot peak baggers like myself.
At 6,080-feet Craggy Dome just barely qualifies for the SB6K list and is actually a much more difficult peak to 'bag' than what you might imagine looking at it from the Blue Ridge Parkway. On paper the hike looked straight forward enough. Begin at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area and simply follow the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for about 3.5 miles to the Greybeard Overlook along the Parkway and pick up the unofficial path to the top from there. Without any real appreciable elevation change, save for the final climb up to the summit I figured it would be a fairly routine and quick 8-mile hike. As it turned out I was quite mistaken. Despite the fact that the MST maintains a fairly consistent elevation (with a couple exceptions) this was a deceptively rugged stretch of trail. Footing in most places involves stepping along frequently loose, wet or moss covered boulders which effectively eliminates being able to set a steady pace and forces you to pay attention to each step lest you twist an ankle or worse. And that's just the first 3.5 miles. I had read that though the trail from the overlook was 'unofficial' that it was fairly easy to locate and relatively open. It was neither. It took about 10-15 minutes to figure out where the less-than-well-worn path left the MST and while the first half of the climb involved a fairly easy and open walk the upper reaches of the peak degenerated into a quasi-bushwhack. I still wouldn't put this hike in the 'more difficult' category of my SB6K hikes to date but I will admit it was a bit more rigorous than I expected. So, without further adieu...off to conquer #22...
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: 8.0 miles Hike Duration: 3:45
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 5-10 people
Min. Elevation: 5,200' Max. Elevation: 6,080'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,530' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 190'
Trails Used (blaze color): Mountains-to-Sea (white)