This loop idea was derived from some information I found while scouring the internet, which is how I find information on a lot of hikes these days. I wanted to hike this section of the A.T. and tackle the triple crowner which consists of McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs and Dragons Tooth but I prefer a loop hike rather than and end to end hike to save the extra hassle of a shuttle.
Well when I found this loop on the internet I knew I had to do it and it worked out great for a leisurely 4 day hike. The triple crowner section of this hike was pretty awesome but the crowds of people definitely didn’t add to the awesomeness. It was a little too crowded for my group but fortunately the North Mountain Trail on the other side of the valley was nearly deserted and quite nice in of itself. The only bad part of the North Mountain Trail is the fact that you have to pack water because once you start climbing there is none to be found. We loaded up on water at Catawba Creek at the bottom of the Andy Layne Trail which forks off of the A.T. This made the climb back up onto the North Mountain Trail quite a bit of work…..okay it was brutal with an extra 4 liters of water on my back. But we made it to the intersection at the top of the mountain where we took a left and headed Southwest. I have to say the North Mountain Trail is a beautiful trail that runs along the spine of the mountains and gives up one view after another. I really wish there was water on this trail but it’s probably a good thing there isn’t because the less adventurous would start crowding it like they do the A.T.
We parked at the Catawba Mountain parking lot for this hike which was extremely full when we arrived. Fortunately, someone happened to be leaving right when we got there so we got a place to park without any wait. There is a port-a-potty at the parking lot so anyone who wants to go before they hit the trail has the option.
Without too much fuss we started up the trail and were standing atop McAfee Knob in no time at all. We passed a few people going to same direction and passed a whole lot of people coming down. Most of the people coming down were day hikers who were probably there just to see the iconic McAfee Knob just from word of mouth or possibly the movie A Walk In the Woods. I heard there was a major influx of people hitting the A.T. this year because of the movie so we were expecting the crowds. Fortunately, winter is coming so that pretty much separates the men from the boys and the trails will be empty for all of the most devout backpackers and hikers.
We enjoyed our time at McAfee Knob and headed on to find our campsite for the night. About .7 mile after McAfee Knob and 4.4 miles from the trailhead we came to Pig Farm and Campbell Shelter where we settled for the evening. Both Pig Farm and the shelter were packed not long after we arrived but we were able to grab some nice campsites for ourselves. There is a decent water source about 1/4 mile from the shelter across a field and into a beautiful little forest where I wish we were able to camp because it was just plain beautiful. But we couldn’t because it was on private land and the A.T. in this area is all on a small corridor of easements.
We got up the next morning and proceeded onward another 5.4 miles on the A.T. until we reached Tinker Cliffs. We spent a little time sightseeing there and pressed on which was quite interesting because the trail follows along the edge of Tinker Cliffs which hits you with incredible views one after another. Just amazing!
We left the A.T. after a short time and started heading downhill on the Andy Layne Trail which was pretty steep at some points but not too bad. We passed several people coming up the mountain from the parking lot on SR779 / Catawba Road. It’s about a 3.1 mile hike from the junction of the A.T. and Andy Layne Trail to the parking lot and it’s a pretty nice hike that crosses a bridge over Catawba Creek.
Once we arrived at the parking lot we crossed SR779/Catawba Road and immediately start heading uphill on the Andy Layne Trail for another 2 miles or so until we intersect with the North Mountain Trail. This was a tough section because all of us were water laden in lieu of our dry campsite that night. After the intersection we hiked another mile along the North Mountain Trail which was slightly rolling and very nice until we reached a nice flat area where we camped for the night.
We got up the next morning and continued on another 7+ miles until we reached the Dragon’s Tooth parking lot where we stopped for lunch. Afterwards we headed up the trail a short distance where we were able to water up because we were all about empty at that point and we would need water for camp the next night. Fortunately, we crossed water several times and the trail hiked along a stream so we had plenty of water sources.
We arrived at the intersection after about 1.6 miles where we set up camp for the night. This is a really nice area with a large fire pit and some fairly level ground area. Some of us took some bare essentials and hiked .7 miles up to Dragon’s Tooth which was outstanding yet fairly crowded. It was still well worth the extra .7 mile hike.
In the morning we hiked about 1.5 miles on the A.T. until we reached SR624 where we had about .5-.75 mile road hike to the Four Pines Hostel. Four Pines Hostel shuttled us back to our vehicle at the Catawba Mountain parking lot. If we had more time we would have hiked to the parking lot but we had a 6+ hour drive ahead of us so the time savings of about 2 hours was worth it.
GEAR LIST FOR THIS TRIP
|SHOES/BOOTS NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|OBOZ SAWTOOTH LOW NOT WATERPROOF W/SUPERFEET GREEN INSOLES||36.10|
|TREKKING POLES NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|BLACK DIAMOND FL ULTRA DISTANCE TREKKING POLES||16.00|
|MOUNTAINSMITH LOOKOUT 45 BACKPACK||66.00|
|BEARPAW WILDERNESS DESIGNS PACK COVER XL||5.00|
|MSR THRU HIKER MESH HOUSE 2 W/FOOTPRINT||20.00|
|COLUMBIA LINER BAG||10.20|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT HOODLUM APEX 20-40 DEGREES 2.1 OZ||2.10|
|ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT REVELATION PRO 20 DEGREE QUILT W/STUFF SACK||29.00|
|THERMAREST RIDGEREST SOLITE REGULAR CUT DOWN TO 20X60||12.00|
|THERMAREST NEOAIR TREKKER LARGE||26.00|
|BROOKS-RANGE MOUNTAINEERING ULTRALITE GUIDE+ TARP||15.50|
|3 NIGHT FOOD – LOKSAK ODORPROOF BAG/ZPACKS BLAST FOOD BAG||104.00|
|BEAR BAG KIT-CORDAGE/BLACK DIAMOND NEUTRINO CARABINER||4.50|
|MINI COMPASS AND TEMP GAUGE||0.70|
|SAWYER FILTER MINI(2OZ), ONE SQUEEZE BAG(1.5OZ), SCOOP CUP(2OZ) MESH BAG||5.50|
|SAFETY LANYARD – BG COMPACT SCOUT KNIFE/ADVENTURE MEDICAL RESCUE HOWLER/COAST G10 FLASHLIGHT||2.80|
|TOILETRY KIT – MEDICINE/TOOTHBRUSH/TOOTHPASTE ETC IN ZIPLOC||11.20|
|FIRE KIT: DRYER LINT/LIGHTER/LIGHT MY FIRE FIRESTEEL||2.80|
|POTTY KIT – DEUCE OF SPADES, TOILET PAPER, HAND CLEANER BOTTLE/HOLDER IN NYLON SACK||4.30|
|EDDIE BAUER IGNITELITE HOODED JACKET||12.10|
|MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR ORKO GLOVES||1.50|
|FALL-SPRING CLOTHING BAG 2 NIGHT – POINT 6 SHORT WOOL SOCKS/DRYMAX COLD WEATHER SOCKS/TSHIRT/MIDWEIGHT WOOL BOTTOMS/EXOFFICIO GIVE’N’GO BOXER BRIEFS IN REI PILLOW SACK||36.00|
|FROGG TOGGS UL JACKET||5.80|
|NIKE RAIN PANTS||12.40|
|TOAKS 600ML POT/ZELPH’S STARLYTE BURNER/EVERNEW TITANIUM STOVE/ALUMINUM WINDSCREEN/GATORADE CUP/ALCOHOL FUEL||16.80|
|VARGO TITANIUM EAGLE SPORK||0.50|
|LIGHT MY FIRE XM LARGE PLASTIC SPORK||0.85|
|WATER BOTTLES – BLADDERS|
|PLATYPUS 2 LITER WATER TANK EMPTY||2.80|
|SOBE BOTTLE EMPTY||1.50|
|BLACK DIAMOND STORM HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK W/EXTRA BATTERIES||5.30|
|MIRROR / COMPASS / MOUNTAIN LAUREL DESIGNS CUBEN FIBER BAG||1.50|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES||491.65|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS||30.73|