Ascent of Youngs Mountain on 2016-11-12

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, November 12, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Youngs Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:2680 ft / 816 m

Ascent Trip Report

I enjoyed Youngs Mountain for several reasons: the views, the rankings, and the route-finding.

My route is 2.6 miles roundtrip with a net gain of 550 feet. I wandered some and wound up with 3.3 miles and over 1000 feet of climbing.

To reach the trailhead, set your GPS for Ken's Rock Road, Lake Lure NC. From Buffalo Creek Road east of Lake Lure, take Youngs Mountain Road up to Buffalo Cliffs. This is a gated community, but every time I've been here the gate is open. Inside the gate, follow Tatanka Trail to the end of the pavement, and park there. (Tatanka is a Lakota word for buffalo. The Lakota live in the Great Plains and I can't explain why the developers used their word instead of the local Cherokee). Even if the gate is closed, you could access this hike from the end of Ken's Rock Road, which is outside the gate.

The route I hiked follows the old Ken's Rock Road along the west side of Youngs Mountain up to a gap north of the peak, then switches back and follows the ridgeline up to the summit. My old GPS doesn't save a breadcrumb track, but here are some milestones you can follow:
0.00 miles/2160 elevation: From the end of Tatanka Trail, follow a short gravel road that turns into a well-traveled path and descends 100 feet to Ken's Rock Road.
0.08/2060: Turn right onto Ken's Rock Road. It looks like this road is used by ATVs and maybe 4WDs.
0.11/2100: Clifftop view on the left is Ken's Rock. Bald Mountain Lake (pool elev. 1052; feeding Lake Lure pool 991) is visible to the left. The horizon left to right includes Rumbling Bald, Shumont Mountain, Eagle Rock, and Weed Patch Mountain. When I visited, a wildfire was raging out of control across the valley.
0.42/2060: Don't give up when Ken's Rock Road starts to descend. You'll come to a fork where the left is blocked by a fallen tree. Go right (uphill). You'll pass through a washed-out section that would stop any 4WD. As you approach the ridgeline, you may see more vehicle tracks coming from a development further north.
0.82/2260: Take a sharp switchback to the right (south) and continue uphill (ignoring the fork that continues north).
0.90/2300: The road crosses the ridge and continues downhill on the east side of the mountain. At this point, leave the road and follow the ridgeline, where traces of an old jeep road are visible. This ridge is quite steep in places--I did the leaf-glissade on the way down.
0.97/2360: When this trail crests and starts downhill, leave it and stay on the ridge.
1.25/2660: As you approach the summit, you'll reach an old road that comes up from the east (left). This will lead you within a few feet of the summit, which is enclosed in trees.

You'll be curious where that summit road comes from. Follow it over the top and down the south side 0.2 miles, where it dead-ends with a clifftop view on the right. It's basically the same view as Ken's Rock, only 400 feet higher. I also explored the road down the east side, descending 250 feet in 0.2 miles. I hoped that it might connect to the road I left at 0.9 miles, but it never turned in that direction.

There probably is a shorter way to the summit. I met two rock-climbers who told me they had found a developed trail (including wooden steps) at the end of the last driveway off Tatanka Trail. It's probably part of the Buffalo Cliffs development. If it goes all the way to the top, I never saw it. Bushwhacking directly up the west side from Tatanka Trail would be daunting because of the cliffs on that side.

Youngs Mountain is steep on all sides and has 1400 feet of prominence, making it one of 95 P1Ks in NC. The prominence of 1400 is remarkable for a peak that tops out at 2700. As far as I can tell, only ten other NC peaks have more than half their height in prominence: Mount Mitchell, Clingman's Dome, Roan High Knob, Huckleberry Knob, Standing Indian, Big Bald, Icy Knob, Moores Knob, Pores Knob, and Pilot Mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1160 ft / 353 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1160 ft / 352 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:660 ft / 201 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 520 ft / 158 m; Extra: 140 ft / 42m
    Loss on way in:140 ft / 42 m
    Distance:1.3 mi / 2.1 km
    Start Trailhead:Tatanka Trail  2160 ft / 658 m
    Time:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1020 ft / 310 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 520 ft / 158 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Gain on way out:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    End Trailhead:Tatanka Trail  2160 ft / 658 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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