Shut-in, Explorer, & Sleepy Gap Loop

Posted By on November 13, 2020

Shut-in, Explorer, & Sleepy Gap Loop

5 miles; 900 feet total ascent; Asheville, NC

This wasn’t exactly the route I had originally planned, but I wasn’t able to park where I thought I needed to, so revised the route. I also took a bit of a shortcut, which was harder than I thought it would be, so that was kind of a trade-off.

Sleepy Gap

I picked a starting spot using various online maps (GaiaGPS, Alltrails, and Google) on the Blue Ridge Parkway that I realized once I got there  really wasn’t suitable as a parking place. It was on the outside of a curve with little-to-no shoulder space. So I ended up parking at Sleepy Gap. Also too, I should know by now that any hike that starts on the BRP is gonna involve a lot of climbing. The “Ridge” part of the name is a dead giveaway…

Climb up to Chestnut Cove

I’ve hiked part of this before, and I knew it would be a hard slog. It was. Nice views, though, now that the leaves are off the trees.

Pretty Red Oak

I said most of the leaves were down, but not all. This red oak caught my eye.

This route took in another part of the Explorer Loop trail that I hadn’t been on before. It was just as excellent as the rest of the Explorer Loop. And just as heavily-traveled by mountain bikers.

Sourwood? Maybe?

And speaking of red, this little sapling was visible from a long way off down the trail. I think it’s a sourwood, but I’m not 100% confident of that ID. The color, though, was amazing. Very very vivid.

Little Bridge

The climb up from South Ridge Road, a trail that was labelled “Sleepy Gap,” was pretty intense. I don’t think it was more than 1/2 mile, but coming at the very end of this hike as it did, it felt like 5 miles.

You can find out more about this hike from this excellent US Forest Service map (pdf file). As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.


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