View – the trail follows a ridgeline with knobs that initially provide eastern views of much of the Black Mountain Range and later western views of much of Craggy Dome, Craggy Pinnacle and the Cane River valley.
Hike Profile – the hike follows the Big Butt trail, 6.3 miles out and back from the Walker Knob overlook (Balsam Gap) on the BRP. With a total ascent of 1875 ft., the hike follows at first a broad ridge which becomes quite narrow. From the BRP the trail climbs steadily to the summit of Point Misery and then descends quite steeply via stairs and switch backs. This is followed by a steep ascent up to the summit of Little Butt via a long set of steps. The trail continues on a narrow ridge to Big Butt at 5988 ft. elevation. There are four distinct view points on the trail. The first view point, on the ridge just before the summit of Little Butt, is an opening on the right side of the trail. The second view point is further up the ridge and has a fairly wide rock face outcropping also on the right. The third view point is a break in the vegetation on left just before reaching Big Butt. The fourth view spot is at the top of Big Butt which has been cleared to provide a view corridor. The summit is the destination for this hike.
Trail Surface – Mostly smooth with several sections of wooden stairs. The trail is rated moderate.
Environment – The vegetation is initially a forest of balsam fir with and undergrowth of ferns and mosses. Ascending further up the broad ridge areas of grass with an open forest and finally up the narrow ridge areas of thick rhododendron and mountain laurel.
Navigation – The trail goes in a fairly straight line from the BRP. It is well worn and generally easy to follow (see below). As you approach Big Butt, the trail goes to the right of the summit of Big Butt and makes a rather difficult descent to Cane River Gap on NC 179. However the end point for this hike is the summit of big Butt. A short side trail to the summit goes to the left of the trail to Cane River Gap. There is no formal trail marker at this point and the trail is not easy to find. The trail to the right of the summit is quite level. A 3 ft. moss covered rock is situated on the right side of the trail 25-30 paces before the turnoff to the trail to the summit. About 50 ft. after the turn is a camp site with a stone fire pit. The trail continues straight up the ridge through tall grass and berry canes. The summit is marked by a geodesic marker on a mound of large rocks.
Directions to Trailhead – Milepost 359 BRP at Walker Gap (previously Balsam Gap.) Parking is a paved pull off. A FS sign to Big Butt marks the trailhead to the left of the parking area.
When approaching Big Butt, look for these mossy rocks on the right side of the trail. The trail to the summit branches off to the left about 25 – 30 paces from these rocks (they are unique)