Ascent of Phoenix Mountain on 2012-08-11

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, August 11, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Phoenix Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:4710 ft / 1435 m

Ascent Trip Report

If you have a rugged jeep and know the right people, it is possible to drive to the towers on top of Phoenix Mountain. Otherwise, you face a hike worthy of one of the Southeast's Top 50 mountains in terms of prominence--a 5.5-mile round trip that climbs over 1700 feet and will test your route-finding skills. I wouldn't try it without GPS.

Start at the Ashe County Park north of the town of Jefferson NC. Park at the highest lot, which happens to be next to the 18th "hole" of a popular frisbee golf course. You need to get to the 15th hole, which is on the wooded ridge to your west. The most direct route is backwards up the 18th fairway to the "tee" high on the ridge. Watch out for flying discs. There are several "holes" and multiple paths in the woods.

The topo and GPS show a trail following the ridge from the park to the summit. But it's not that simple. Even where there is a trail (actually an abandoned road), it varies from the map enough to make you second-guess your route. Two stretches require short bushwhacks through open woods.

Landmarks of the hike:
0.0 miles (elevation 3160)--parking lot.
0.2 (3400)--reach the 15th hole. Just beyond is a fence with old roads on both sides. Follow the fence uphill (NW) to a corner that has a walk-through gate.
0.3 (3480)--pass through the gate and continue uphill on the road on the other side. You may want to flag this location, as the gate is easily overlooked on the way down.
0.6 (3700)--the road crests a ridge. Avoid the tempting 4-wheeler tracks that head uphill on the R. Continue ahead even as the road descends across a saddle on the W flank.
0.7 (3670)--when the road forks, take the R fork uphill.
1.2 (3900)--reach a ridge and another fork. Take the R fork uphill. You're halfway there.
1.4 (4120)--despite what the topo shows, the road ends here. Bushwhack on up the ridge through open woods.
1.6 (4230)--cross a subpeak which has views from a couple of outcroppings. Find a 4-wheeler track on the other side and follow it to a saddle.
1.9 (4160)--reach a cleared homesite with a good gravel driveway coming up from Johnson Hollow on the east. I suspect this is part of a gated community. On the ridge, though, nothing is posted. Continue bushwhacking up the ridge on the other side of the saddle, angling NW until you hit the jeep road coming up from Claybank Road on the west side. Beware of a fallen barbed-wire fence along the road.
2.1 (4300)--where I reached the jeep road. There are buried power and phone lines along this road as if development is planned, but the road is definitely not realtor-ready. It's steep, narrow, and eroded--barely passable by jeep, but okay for hiking.
2.7 (4710)--reach the summit. Go past several communications towers to find an outcropping with fine views of the little town of Warrensville (2000 feet below), the North Fork of the New River, and the route the Virginia Creeper railroad followed across the mountains between Jefferson and Abingdon VA. North of Warrensville, the town of Lansing NC recently built a paved walking trail along a short stretch of the old track, rekindling hopes that maybe someday there might be a rail-to-trail route on the NC side to match the splendid Virginia Creeper Trail. So far, trail plans in NC have been stymied by private property owners.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1650 ft / 502 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1650 ft / 502 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Breezy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1650 ft / 502 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1550 ft / 472 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Loss on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.4 km
    Route:southern ridgeline
    Start Trailhead:Ashe County Park  3160 ft / 963 m
    Time:2 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1550 ft / 472 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.4 km
    End Trailhead:Ashe County Park  3160 ft / 963 m
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes

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