Distance: 288 miles (463.5 km)
Start: Davenport Gap, TN
Finish: Springer Mountain, GA
- For trailhead access details, see the BMTA hiker resources page.
Avg. Time: 18 – 20 days
- For my money, spring & autumn are ideal. Comfortable temps and Mother Nature at her finest (i.e. flowers blossoming or Fall colours).
Maps & Info:
- The Benton Mackaye Trail is named after the New England conservationist and visionary, who in 1921 first put forward the idea of the Appalachian Trail.
- The Benton Mackaye Trail Association website contains up-to-date information on trail conditions and links to other helpful resources.
- Maps: In 2011, I used a free set of downloadable maps from Chris Johnson (aka Mr Parkay). Unfortunately as of 2015, these appear no longer to be available. As an alternative, try the Trails Illustrated maps listed on the BMTA Hiker Resources page.
- Benton Mackaye Trail Thru-Hiker Guide: Sgt. Rock’s planning guide to the BMT. Excellent resource.
- Pmags.com – Return to the Hills: Includes logistical information on the BMT as well as a trail journal and accompanying photos.
- Overview: Not too much in the way of jaw dropping vistas, but a combination of understated beauty, solitude, wonderful hospitality (see below) and the rich history of the region, made my BMT experience a memorable one.
- Step back in time: The BMT is what I imagine the Appalachian Trail was like 40 years ago. Same mountains, less people. Indeed, in regards to other walkers, during my journey I only met two section hikers.
- Shelter: Unlike the AT, the BMT has very little in the way of lean-tos or huts. There are only two throughout its course (at the 50 and 273 mile marks).
- Resupply: Click here for a list of options from BMTA.org. I resupplied just the one time at Tellico River Rd. (around the half way mark). I sent a box to the Green Cove Motel.
- Water: Plentiful. Never carried more than a litre.
- Looking for something longer? I hiked the BMT in November, 2011, as part of a 583 mile route I called the Southeastern Serpentine Trail. It entailed a combination of 4 different hikes, namely the Foothills, Bartram and Benton Mackaye trails, along with a 92 mile section of the Appalachian Trail, that ran mostly through the Smoky mountains.
Notes & Musings:
- Razorback: Whilst hiking the Lakeshore Trail section along Fontana Dam, I saw a huge wild hog that must have weighed around 400 lbs. According to local hunters, these boars were introduced from Russia a few centuries back. From the looks of things they haven’t missed too many meals in subsequent years. 😉
- The People: The folks I encountered along the way are what really made the Benton Mackaye Trail a fantastic hike. A huge thanks to the following people:
1. Neon John, the softly spoken nuclear scientist (seriously) and his much appreciated drying machine.
2. Lori and family, who magically appeared out of the fog bearing biscuits, hot soup and perhaps the most wonderful cup of coffee I have ever had.
3. The good ol’ boys of Reliance Fly and Tackle for their memorable hospitality, never-ending supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon and unexpected instruction in the arts of drag racing, motorcycle construction and tasering.
4. Tom and Janet Mitchell. Simply two of the nicest people I can recall meeting. I met Tom (who is a trail maintainer for the BMT) at the McDonalds restaurant in Blue Ridge. Taking refuge from the elements over a cup of coffee and a newspaper, Tom spotted my backpack, shorts, unkempt appearance and didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes incarnate to realize that he was looking at a cold and hungry long distance hiker. Next thing I knew I was enjoying an unexpected rest day in the warm and dry confines of their wonderful home.
5. Last but not least, Ron Brown, the shuttle King of Amicalola State Park! Ron has been providing shuttles to hikers for years, and goes above and beyond the call of duty in order to help hikers in anyway he can. Case in point; when I arrived at the Park visitor centre it was already dark and Ron was just about to head home. Instead, he kindly gave me a ride to Gainesville and then waited until my bus arrived just to make sure that there was space available.