Ascent of Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge on 2020-10-21

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge
    Location:USA-North Carolina/Tennessee
    Elevation:5000 ft / 1524 m

Ascent Trip Report

A few years ago, I aggravated some of my fellow COHP'ers when I posted GIS maps that ruled out this fairly easy spot as a candidate for the Cherokee NC COHP. I claimed Cherokee by climbing County Corners, where the liners are over 50 feet higher than this corner. Still, I felt better about my NC completion after I finally checked off this spot.

I parked at Big Junction Overlook on the Tennessee side of the Cherohala Skyway and hiked up the Snowbird Creek Trail 64 to the top of Big Junction. The trail actually veers off to the right before you reach the summit. Other reports say there is a sign here, but all I saw was some orange flagging. The trail crosses the saddle between Big Junction and Laurel Top and then bypasses Laurel Top on the E/SE flank. The trail is not blazed and has not been maintained, so it may be a challenge to follow in summer, but in October it was OK.

The trail eventually reconnects with the ridgeline SW of Laurel Top, which defines the border between TN and NC. The trail stays on the NC side, contrary to the USGS maps that show it on the TN side. If the Cherokee/Graham/Monroe county corner is marked, I could not find it. I walked down to the 5,000 contour and found a yellow-signed National Forest marker with a Bearing Tree. According to my GAIA map, this sign is a little SW of the county corner, so I had passed the corner along the way. The Cherokee-Graham boundary is defined by a watershed between Snowbird Creek/Santeetlah Lake and the Tellico River, but the dividing ridge isn't apparent along the trail.

On the way back, I climbed Laurel Top into the highest contour, but it started raining and I turned back before I could look for the Laurel benchmark on the south end of the summit.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:620 ft / 188 m
    Total Elevation Loss:620 ft / 188 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Descent (To Destination) Statistics
    Gain on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Loss on way in:320 ft / 97 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    Start Trailhead:Cherohala Skyway, Big Junction overlook  5220 ft / 1591 m
    Time:1 Hours 
Ascent (From Destination) Statistics
    Loss on way out:300 ft / 91 m
    Gain on way out:520 ft / 158 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    End Trailhead:Cherohala Skyway, Big Junction overlook  5220 ft / 1591 m
    Time:1 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Tom Layton
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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