Ascent of Chestnut Mountain on 2012-07-14

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, July 14, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Chestnut Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3320 ft / 1011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Chestnut Mountain marks the corner of Avery, Burke, and Caldwell counties--a nice alphabetical three-fer for anyone working on the NC county lists on listsofjohn. It's the 2nd-ranked peak in Caldwell County (behind Calloway Peak on Grandfather Mountain), 10th in Burke, and 31st in Avery.

The trailhead is on Forest Service Road 982, 4.1 miles E of NC 181. The turnoff from 181 is easy to miss and is just north of Milepost 17 (presumably 17 miles from Morganton). The good gravel road descends quickly into the valley, crosses a one-lane bridge, and then turns R as it climbs to the gap between Chestnut Mtn and Brown Mtn, where there's ample room to park. (If you're coming from Wilson Creek and Brown Mountain Beach Road, FS982 is signed Craig Creek Road.)

Gated roads lead north and south from the gap. The south heads toward Brown Mountain, which is set aside for use by off-road vehicles. There are also some ORV tracks headed north, but the only traffic I encountered was a pair of mountain-bikers from Lees-McRae College's nationally ranked cycling team.

The hike is 6.3 miles round trip.

From the gap, follow the gated road to the north as it climbs gently from 2080 to 2720. At 2.3 miles, as the road horseshoes around a ridge west of Chestnut Mountain, leave the road and head up the ridge on an abandoned jeep trail. At 2.6 miles, another jeep trail will join yours from the L. Soon you'll pass through an old gateway with a sign that says Closed to Vehicles. The old jeep trail--now a picturesque path--will lead you all the way to the top, where you'll find the footings of a long-gone fire tower that was evidently built in 1938 (or maybe 1932--hard to read date on concrete footing). The wooded summit offers no views.

Back on NC181 around milepost 20, there's a nice view to the east called the Brown Mountain Overlook--in homage to Scotty Wiseman's bluegrass standard, "Brown Mountain Lights." Chestnut Mountain is the dominant peak to the E--600 feet higher and several miles closer than the more famous Brown Mountain. The W side of the overlook offers a dramatic profile of Table Rock, the steepest peak in the Appalachians.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1240 ft / 377 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.3 mi / 10.1 km
    Route:FS road
    Trailhead:Craig Creek Rd  2080 ft / 633 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 

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