Ascent of Three Top Mountain-Big Rock on 2017-04-09

Climber: Zachary Robbins

Date:Sunday, April 9, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Three Top Mountain-Big Rock
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5000 ft / 1524 m

Ascent Trip Report

I would say there's more than a little confusion when it comes to Three Top Mountain. This was my first hike here, and I did extensive research about official game land information, blog posts, a book, and of course trip reports on here. I hope my hike link below is the clearest information on this mountain. Honestly it is not difficult nor complicated. What seems to get many people is finding the trailhead. In general, stay to the left on all of these gravel roads. Avoid the obvious signs for private driveways, and be sure to have it loaded on your GPS driving app before you lose cell signal. I found the final left turn onto the game land road no problem. You may be unsure of the destination, but the game land road ends at a nice turnaround parking circle beside the gate.

The first half-mile is flat, you'll pass by a small waterfall on the right. At the first junction turn right. You'll encounter multiple junctions on this hike with branching forest roads, follow the GPS track, or at least pay attention to the flagging tape. After this first turn the road turns rocky and steep for the rest of the climb. This is a pretty brutal approach, 1,000 ft in ~1.2 miles on a very rocky roadbed. Turn right at mile 0.8, and turn left at mile 1.4. Very soon after the mile 1.4 left turn, you'll turn right in just over 150 feet. This is your last major junction. The road narrows as it approaches Huckleberry Rock.

Huckleberry Rock (listed on newer maps as 5,035 feet) is an awesome series of relatively flat rocks, easy to explore northeast on the ridges beyond the end of the trail. I clambered out to the second rock summit, which has a more expansive view than where the trail ends. By far the best view is west of Big Rock shadowed by much bigger Amphibolite Mtns: Snake Mt and Elk Knob. You also have amazing views of the Iron Mtns to the north, and Phoenix Mt, Mt Jefferson, and Bluff Mt to the east and south.

Follow the trail back down towards a broad saddle, with very open woods to the left/south. This is approximately 0.2-mi from Huckleberry Rock, and before the trail starts seriously dropping. To get to Big Rock, go into the woods and you'll probably find a usage path that generally straddles the middle of the ridge. The total bushwhack is ~0.5-mi. For the first few hundred yards this is easy to follow, and relatively open. As you approach the knobs below Big Rock the ridge narrows and the undergrowth gets thicker. Here you'll need to make your way around some obstacles, but generally you can still follow a faint path that sticks to the left/east side of the height-of-land. You'll have to scramble up some rock faces, but this is easy compared to many other hikes I've done.

The high point of Big Rock, the highest peak on Three Top Mt, is not the best view (listed on newer USGS maps as 5,044 feet). Continue down the rock ledges southwest towards small, flat grassy patches with incredible vistas. The sheer dropoffs on each side are awesome. The subsequent rock ledges continue to get steep southwest as it turns into a knife-edge row of rocks leading hundreds of feet down towards a saddle below Peak 4880. More adventurous climbers would love continuing down this ridge to Peak 4880, which surely has amazing views as well. My friend and I were satisfied with the views from Big Rock, which are very similar to Huckleberry Rock with clearer views south of Grandfather Mt and west of Elk Knob/Snake Mt. The grassy patches are amazing lunch and picture spots. We turned around and made our way back to the trail, this took less than 25 minutes. It really is a short bushwhack. The road down is steep and hurts the knees and feet, one of the least fun forest roads I've encountered.

Full hike info and video
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1492 ft / 454 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1492 ft / 454 m
    Distance:2.1 mi / 3.4 km
    Start Trailhead:3508 ft / 1069 m
Descent Statistics
    Distance:2.1 mi / 3.4 km
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Zachary Robbins
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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