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Ascent of White Rocks Mountain on 2013-09-14

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, September 14, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:White Rocks Mountain
    Location:USA-Tennessee
    Elevation:4240 ft / 1292 m

Ascent Trip Report

Unless you're thru-hiking the AT, I'm afraid there's not much to recommend White Rocks Mountain and the lookout tower site ("White Rocks Mountain--North Peak"). Views are limited, the fire tower is gone, and I didn't even see any white rocks.

Even if you're thru-hiking, you could easily miss the summits. The AT used to cross over the tops but has been re-routed a little lower on the mountains.

I hiked out-and-back from Dennis Cove, which is 10.9 miles roundtrip on the AT with over 2,600 feet of climbing, including the short side trip to the tower site. That's a little longer than the AT map suggests, mostly because of recent switchback construction that lengthens but improves the hike. I'm slow, but it took me 7 hours. Relentless rocks make for slow walking and sore ankles. I also had problems with cramps on the way down, even though I was conscientious about staying hydrated.

Milestones:

0.0--Trailhead is at elevation 2510, where the AT crosses Dennis Cove Road. This is 4 miles from US321 in Hampton TN. A grassy field has room to park more than a dozen cars. It's usually crowded, but on this day the only other vehicles were an AT trail construction team. Take the AT southbound.

1.9--After a long climb up a cove, the trail switchbacks along some ledges to reach 3500. At 1.9 miles is the junction with the Coon Den Falls Trail, which leads down to Dennis Cove Road. This should be an alternative way to return to your car, but the top of the trail looked a little overgrown, so I decided not to try it on my way down.

2.0--Trail crew was building a bypass around a steep little knoll. I ascended on the old trail and descended on the new. Much of the next mile has been recently rebuilt.

3.1--Ledge offers a nice view of the Roan Highlands.

3.27--GPS will tell you that you are passing the firetower site as the trail crests 4000. Don't fall for the temptation to bushwhack through the rhododendron. Instead, stick with the AT until you can see a clearing or a power line atop the ridge on the left. That's your route to the tower site.

3.43--Tower site (listed on Peakbagger as "White Rocks Mountain--North Peak"). The old firetower has been replaced by a fenced communications tower. The summit clearing is surrounded by trees, so there are no views here. NOTE: The access road roughly parallels the AT but does not cross it for almost a half-mile.

Return to the AT southbound. continue down a switchback to the road crossing and then a meadow in the gap at 3720. The AT climbs quickly back up to the ridgeline, where it becomes a nice level stroll.

5.6 miles cumulative (including the 0.3 mile sidetrip to the tower)--See the boulders that crown White Rocks Mountain on your right.

Thru-hikers or car shuttlers can continue another mile or so across Moreland Gap (which has a shelter) to the ranked south peak, but I did not go that far.

If you have 4WD, it may be possible to drive Tower Road almost all the way to the tower site. The section of road where it crosses the AT certainly looked driveable, and there were 4-wheeler tracks at the top. Tower Road is shown on the GPS but is not signed at lower-end junction with Railroad Grade Road (the old ET&WNC "Tweetsie" route). I drove my old Accord to the end of the pavement but didn't want to tempt fate any further. If you succeed in driving up Tower Road, the roundtrip hike to White Rocks Mountain would be about 3 miles with a climb of 500 feet.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2630 ft / 800 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2630 ft / 801 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.9 mi / 17.5 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2230 ft / 679 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1730 ft / 527 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Loss on way in:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:5.6 mi / 9 km
    Route:AT southbound
    Start Trailhead:Denis Cove  2510 ft / 765 m
    Time:4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2130 ft / 649 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1730 ft / 527 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:5.3 mi / 8.5 km
    Route:AT southbound
    End Trailhead:Denis Cove  2510 ft / 765 m
    Time:3 Hours 



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