Down in the far southern section of DuPont State Forest is the Reasonover area, near the community of Cedar Mountain. Home to several trails and a couple of reservoirs, like most of DuPont, Reasonover is a great place to go hiking. Especially if you want to stay away from the high country during the winter season, Reasonover is less than 3,000 feet, so you’re a lot less likely to encounter snow and ice. The Reasonover Creek Trail is the hub, with many other trails and forest roads branching out in every direction. This hike occurred on Thursday, January 16, 2014 beginning at 10:00AM and ending about 2:45PM. Our plan was to take the Reasonover Creek Trail to Lake Julia, then climb up to the airfield on Camp Summit Road and on to Fawn Lake Road to complete the loop. We ended up taking a side trip as well.
Hike Length: 11.25 miles Hike Duration: 4.75 hours
Hike Rating: Moderate; mostly easy hiking, but pretty long.
Blaze: No blaze in DuPont, but plenty of trail signs.
Elevation Gain: 940 feet Hike Configuration: Double loop
Trail Condition: Always excellent at DuPont State Forest.
Starting Point: Reasonover area trailheads on Reasonover Road.
Trail Traffic: We encountered four other hikers on this winter weekday.
How to Get There: DuPont State Forest can be accessed from Hendersonville via Kanuga/Crab Creek Rd., from Asheville/Brevard via US64 and Little River Rd., or from Greenville, SC via Cedar Mountain and Cascade Lake Rd. From the Staton Road/Cascade Lake Road junction go south 2 miles and turn left on Reasonover Road. Go 2.8 miles to Fawn Lake access on the left. There is plenty of parking. Look for printed trail maps at public parking areas.
We have passed through the little community of Cedar Mountain many times on our way to South Carolina hiking at Caesars Head and Jones Gap. But if you hang a left on Reasonover Road just before reaching Cedar Mountain, you will find the Reasonover area at the southern tip of DuPont State Forest.
The Reasonover trailheads are easily recognizable as there is a large signboard with trail maps and other state forest info. Basically there are two choices here: Reasonover Creek Trail goes to the right (north) and Fawn Lake Road goes left. We chose to take the loop counterclockwise by starting on Reasonover Creek Trail.
The trail starts out through a relatively thin hardwood forest with scattered juvenile pine. It looks like there has been forest management logging done here in the past. None of the trees are particularly old. The trail winds in a generally downward path, but very gradually. Within 10-15 minutes you are within earshot of Reasonover Creek.
When you reach the creek, it’s time for a rock hop. Fear not. This is the only creek crossing on this hike, and pretty straightforward. It’s a fairly wide crossing, probably 40-50 feet, but the rocks are interspersed well to enable stepping from one stone to the next. I’ve never been here when the water is really roaring, so it could be potentially hazardous, but most days if you pay attention, the crossing is a piece of cake.
Once on the east side of Reasonover Creek, the trail begins climbing out of the creek drainage in an easterly direction. After a quarter mile it makes a turn to the north, then reaches a junction with Turkey Knob Road. In my one previous visit to Reasonover, I had not ventured out to Turkey Knob, so my companion for the day suggested we give it a go.
Turkey Knob Road is a nice wide, flat trail through the forest that meets the Poplar Hill Loop at Turkey Knob. The combination of the two trails added roughly four miles to our total hike. Once on the Poplar Hill Loop, there is a decline of about 200 feet on the south side, then back up on the north. There’s nothing of special interest on this trail, other than peaceful, beautiful forest, and oh, did I mention the old fifties era Nash Rambler that is buried in the leaves of many a season? Made a wrong turn I suppose.
To return to the Reasonover Creek Trail it’s back the way you came, and then a meandering walk of about a mile along the ridge above Lake Julia. When you reach a point on the trail where you can see the lake through the trees (only in winter), the trail begins its descent back down to the creek.
At the bottom, you will find the best place to view Reasonover Creek on this hike, and a path right along the creek bank for several hundred yards. You’ll pass an old, broken-down hunting shelter and then reach the Devendorf Bridge to cross the creek. The bridge is named for Bill Devendorf, the volunteer caretaker of DuPont State Forest from 2001-2004.
It’s just a leisurely stroll now along the southern tip of Lake Julia, past the boathouse, then reaching a sort of park on a narrow cape that juts into the lake from the west. This is a perfect spot for lunch as there are several picnic tables and a relaxed view of the lake and surrounding mountains. That’s the photo at the top of this post.
There’s plenty to do in this area including paddle boating and fishing, or just plain goofing off on a delightfully beautiful day. The hot soup I brought in my thermos really warmed me up on this crisp day in mid-January. You probably want to rest here for several minutes, because the next stretch of the hike is back uphill to the western ridge above the lake.
Start out on Lake Julia Road westbound for about a hundred yards, then take a hard left on Camp Summit Road up the hill. You’ll pass a residence and then reach a surprising air strip at the top of Camp Summit. Yes, DuPont State Forest really does have its own stolport. There are any number of trails to explore from this air strip, but for this hike follow the signs across the strip to Conservation Road.
It’s a short way to the junction with Fawn Lake Road, your next destination. Turn right on Fawn Lake Road, then bear left past the Fawn Lake Loop access. You can take the loop if you wish, but it just winds behind, and away from the lake.
Like many of the lakes in DuPont State Forest, Fawn Lake is a reservoir. It’s a lot smaller than Lake Julia, and is a haven for swimmers in summer. There are picnic tables, a gazebo, and a diving boardwalk for those who enjoy family-friendly outdoor activities when the weather is warm and toasty.
The one previous time I had been to Fawn Lake, it was frozen and was making the oddest popping and cracking sounds as the water was trying to thaw. Although the temperature on this visit was near freezing, there hadn’t been enough continuously cold days for the lake to ice-over. I can imagine it would be ideal for skating if there was a week-long deep freeze.
We paused for several minutes to enjoy the view and ponder the myriad of trails that are found in this area. From the air strip you can reach Bridal Veil Falls. From Lake Julia you can continue down Lake Julia Road past Lake Dense, and eventually on to the big waterfalls in the central section of the forest. From Fawn Lake you can head westward to Corn Mill Shoals and Burnt Mountain. Like I said up top, the Reasonover area is home to a wealth of trails.
From Fawn Lake it’s just a hop, skip and jump back to the parking area at the starting point. In all, on this day, we covered just over 11 miles. If you cut out the side trip on Turkey Knob to Poplar Hill Loop, you can knock four miles off of that. If only doing the Reasonover Creek loop I would rate this an easy hike, but adding the 2nd loop makes it more moderately difficult simply because of the distance. You’re the best judge of what your capabilities are.
DuPont State Forest has become our go-to destination for winter hiking. Hovering around 3,000 feet rather than the taller mountains in nearby Pisgah National Forest, you are a lot less likely to be stymied by snow and ice. The caretakers of DuPont State Forest do an absolutely fabulous job with trail maintenance. No matter the season, you can always count on smooth, even trails that are easy on the feet.
Thinking back, this is the 2nd time I’ve done this hike at Reasonover, both times in the winter season. I’m going to make a point to go back some time during the green season this year to see how it differs. In the meantime, share your experiences with us by using the comments box below.
Updated December 20, 2015: Made another pass around this beautiful loop. Here’s a few more photos.