The Bell Mountain Wilderness loop trail we did last summer turned out to be a great easy-ish overnight backpacking trail. Our campsite was absolutely gorgeous! This hike featueres special guest Tyler Florence.
At around 12 miles, this loop looked like the perfect casual overnight hike to get some time out in the woods. We looked over the maps and decided to do a 9 miles the first day and set up camp at what looked like a nice overlook (on a topo map), and then a short 3 mile hike back down to the car the next morning.
We ended up getting a slower start than we wanted due to the classic problem of not being able to find the trail… at all. If you decide to do this hike, the trailhead is directly across the road from the parking lot and not very far up or down the road from it. DO NOT hike a mile in both directions only to find that if you had stared a bit harder at the hill in front of you, the trail was right there the whole time… But enough about my eyesight.
In order to get a 12 mile hike out of this trail, we headed down the west part of the loop first. This takes you down into a “bottoms” area, and in the middle of summer it was a bit boggy and not as well traveled. Most people use this trail as a day hike to the top of the mountain, and this section of trail was not as well worn. That being said, your best opportunity for water is down in this “bottoms” area, and we were able to fill up our water bottles a few times through this section of the trail.
Soon you start heading out of this low part of the trail, and I felt the denseness of the air lift off of me. You gain altitude pretty quickly, and the landscape starts to turn rocky. I found a couple of false summits, but the best views were ahead. Don’t stop til you see something worth seeing!
Before we hit the trail, I thought we might have an opportunity to get more water from a creek which seemed to run by the base of this bluff on the top of the mountain. Once we arrived, it was clear that I had made a mistake on this matter. Fortunately my good friends did not let me go thirsty, but a word of warning: Unless you intend to make the climb down to the creek after a stiff day of hiking, make sure you bring enough water for the night. It was a very silly decision on my part to not do so.
There were plenty of established camp sites at the top of Bell Mountain even with a couple of other groups camping overnight as well. We had plenty of space, and the area never felt crowded. The bonus was that we didn’t have to work as hard to make a safe area for a campfire on the rocky ground.
I will be back for this trail.