Got in a short 5.4 mile out and back on the Appalachian Trail from Devil Fork Gap to Flint Mountain Shelter. If you want a taste of what an AT forest walk is like, without a taste of what an AT killer climb is like, this is the hike for you. As a matter of fact, as far as AT hikes out of a gap, this is about as easy as it gets.
The weather was cool, cloudy, and drizzly, with temperatures around 40F. Perfect hiking weather, in other words. The trailhead is on the TN/NC border along TN-352/NC-212. Plenty of parking along the south side of the road, which is actually the northbound trailhead. To head to Flint Mountain shelter, you climb the steps on the north side of the road and head northeast along the trail.
This section winds along, following the contours in a relatively gentle climb. It then crests over a small ridge and descends to an old road grade, which it follows for about 3/4 mile. The trail resumes a gentle climb, nicely following the contours. I kept waiting for the trail to turn and start a brutal climb up one of the neighboring ridges, but thankfully, it never did.
Now that I think about it, I can see why much of the AT climbs directly up ridge lines: trail construction along the side of a hill along the contour lines is obviously much more difficult. The trail builders here did a great job, and it shows.
At 2.7 miles from the gap, you cross a series of small streams and make a short climb to the shelter. The shelter is one of the nicer ones in this area, and the setting is pretty. My picture doesn’t do justice; the lens was warm from the camera being in my pocket and moisture condensed on it when I removed the lens cap.
After a quick snack, I returned the way I came. When I have more time, I’d like to return and make the push up Coldspring Mountain (a brutal climb as I understand) and through to Round Knob or Allen Gap.
Distance: 5.4 miles. Time: 2-3/4 hours. More photos here