Surviving the Overmountain Victory Trail

Three weeks ago I was deathly ill after suffering from a bite of some sort, most likely from a brown recluse, so when I decided to tackle the Overmountain Victory Trail I had no idea that neither remnants of that illness nor the copperhead on the trail would be the least of my worries.

The Overmountain Victory Trail is a 330 mile trail that starts in Abingdon, VA and traverses through Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina before winding back into North Carolina where it ends at Kings Mountain. It marks the route taken by American patriots in 1780 who traveled from Abingdon on horseback in the dead of winter to fight, and win, the Battle of Kings Mountain. One portion of it runs near Tryon, NC where a vineyard is named over it.

For the most part, IT IS NOT a hiking a trail, but rather a path made up of roads and unmarked trails through private land, however there is a small section that can be hiked.  

I've written previously about hiking the Appalachian Trail through Roan Highlands which is one of my favorite places, containing large balds, stunning views and boreal forests due to the high elevation.

To reach the Overmountain Victory Trail, park at Carver's Gap near the top of Roan Mountain. Travel northbound on the AT about five miles at which point you will find that the Overmountain Victory Trail crosses the AT (at Yellow Mountain Gap). From there, turning left onto the OVT will take you through a long descent of single track for about a mile and a half, before it then opens up to a double track that runs through a number of horse and cow pastures.

At times the trail is poorly marked and very much overgrown. Many of the signs have been knocked down. Just keep in mind that you need to stay close to the sound of the river and you'll be okay. Once you reach mile 3.5 or so (which would be 8.5 miles from Carver's Gap) you'll walk past a few homes, the first of which is clearly deserted (despite the fact that someone was boiling something in an old fifty-five gallon drum in the front yard). You'll then come to a paved road. This is the Hampton Creek Cove Recreation Area and it contains a small parking area. It also contains some locals who will eyeball you suspiciously from inside their trailers. 

At that point you have a couple of options. Turn around and hike back, or continue walking the OVT, which is now completely unmarked and follows a series of paved, and poorly marked, roads.  You could also start your hike from here if you don't mind walking up hill for three and a half miles. 

Camping is allowed on the trail but the forested area of the trail is very much overgrown and it would be difficult to pitch a tent. The pastured areas are also largely overgrown with black berry bushes and make for a less than ideal campsite but would work in a pinch.

What my two companions and I ended up doing was continuing to walk down the road a couple of miles to Hwy. 143 where we hitched a ride to the Roan Mountain State Park campground and spent the night there. While there we learned from the forest ranger that the locals are not fond of hikers and that the area is a den of methamphetamine production. That might explain the enormous number of viscous dogs along the path.

However should you decide to follow in our footsteps, here are the directions: From the Hampton Creek Cove Recreation area, turn right onto Hampton Creek Road. (It's not marked but it's the only road you'll see at that point.) Walk about a mile and you'll come to a crossroads. The road to the right is called Teaberry Road but isn't marked. On our map it said that it was  called Teaberry on both sides but to the left it's actually marked (sort of) with a sign that says "Dark Hollow Road." Both Dark Hollow Road and Teaberry Road have rather interesting ghost stories attached to them. There is a large unmarked grave off of Teaberry where supposedly a witch was buried and now haunts the site.  So don't go that way. Instead turn left on Dark Hollow where you will pass a cemetery that is also supposedly haunted by a woman who was murdered by the local wives who thought she was sleeping with all their husbands.  We didn't catch a glimpse of her though.

Follow that road until you get to another crossroads. If you go straight, you'll be on Sugar Hollow Road. If you turn right you'll be on Sugar Hollow Road. Yes you read that correctly. Go right, on Sugar Hollow, not straight on Sugar Hollow. Sugar Hollow to the right will take you to Hwy 143 and you'll see an RV park on your left. Unfortunately, as we discovered, they won't let backpackers stay there. So from there, turn left onto 143 and walk about a mile and a half to the state park campground located on the right side of the road.

For one more option to the trailhead, see the comment from Brenda W. below.

Despite the reputation of the area, we actually had nothing but pleasant interactions with people. A kid on an ATV stopped to give us directions. A guy on a tractor gave us even better directions. A guy on a riding lawn mower stopped mowing to try and help but actually gave us bad directions. A lady sitting on her porch offered us water. A guy on a homemade motorcycle with no brakes stopped as well. He had to use his feet to stop. He also gave us bad directions but not intentionally. Then a nice guy gave us a ride the last mile and a half and even gave us some ears of corn from his garden. Once we made it to the state park, a ranger gave me a lift back to my car and refused to let me pay him for his time and another camper gave us hamburgers for dinner. It was a hell of an adventure. Wish I had time to write about all the other things we saw, like the thousand or so centipedes that invaded our campsite the first night.

Distance from downtown Greenville: 126 miles


Brenda W. said...

I've hiked this portion of the Overmountain trail quite a number of times, and have had nothing but good experiences. (I'm a 61 year old female who usually hikes solo).

The two times I ran into anyone, it was other hikers (a family out for a weekend's backpack trip each time). 2 very friendly dogs who live in the house adjacent to the trailhead on Hampton Creek Road joined me another time when I started there and hiked up to the AT.

As for the folks that live along the road you take to the trailhead, I've found them to be very friendly, waving back when I wave to them.

As an aside, there's an additional way to access this trail which brings you to the Yellow Mountain Gap junction in a much shorter distance than beginning at Carvers Gap: Hike in via the Roaring Creek Trailhead, which is at the end of Roaring Creek road off US19E. The trailhead is one mile south of the AT at Yellow Mountain Gap. So you'd hike that one mile up to the AT, and just go straight across the AT to pick up the trail down to Hampton Creek Cove.

Now if you're doing a shuttle hike, this would not be practical, as it would take at least an hour, maybe a little more, to drive between trailheads, but if you're doing an out and back, or keyswap, this starting point would work well.

Eric Rogers said...

Thanks for your comments and the additional directions Brenda. I had seen your trip report ( prior to making this trip.

My original plan was for us to camp on the AT the first night, which we did, then camp again somewhere along the OVT then walk the backroads to the Laurel Spur Trail and back to the car. My map made it appear that some of those paved roads were just forestry roads so when we realized we were walking paved roads through private land we ultimately found that camping at the campground was the only option the second night.

Brenda W. said...

Sounds like you and I were looking at the same maps ~~ grin!! As I shared in my trip report that you linked to, the topo map I was looking at showed Hampton Creek Cove Road heading well up into the cove, coming within a mile of Yellow Mountain Gap, with a trail continuing on from there. The remnants of that old road are still evident as you hike along the OVT, but it's been years since it was in use by vehicles!!

I've learned now to double check what I find on topo maps on Google Earth!! Saves a lot of surprises (like houses and neighborhoods where you think there's trails)!

Glad to see you're posting again on your blog ... yours is one I follow regularly.