Forest Road Connector of Caney Bottom and Daniel Ridge Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is the greatest road builder in the world. Oft times, those forest service roads come in handy for hikers to get from one ridge to another, from one creek drainage to another, or simply from one trail to another. That’s the case with Forest Road 225 in Pisgah National Forest. FR225 tips the Caney Bottom and Cove Creek Trails on its eastern end, and the Daniel Ridge Loop on the western end. Combining the two by joining them via FR225 offers the ability to enjoy a longer loop hike. We tackled this adventure on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 beginning at 10:50AM and ending about 3:55PM. Our plan was to take the Caney Bottom Trail to the Cove Creek Trail, then join FR225 over to Lanning Ridge and its junction with the Daniel Ridge Trail.

Hike Length: 11 miles Hike Duration: 5 hours

Blaze: Blue, yellow, red. Hike Rating: Moderate. Some climbing, but not strenuous.

Elevation Gain: 1,550 feet Hike Configuration: Loop

Trail Condition: Most of this hike is on a forest roadbed. The trail sections are nice.

Starting Point: Daniel Ridge trailhead on Forest Road 475.

Trail Traffic: We encountered three other hikers on this weekday.

How to Get There: From the junction of US 276/64 in Brevard, NC go 5.4 miles into Pisgah National Forest on 276 to Forest Service Road 475, otherwise known as Fish Hatchery Road, and turn left. Go 4 miles to the parking area on the right. The parking is 0.7 mile past the Cove Creek Campground sign.

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We started this hike at the trailhead for the Daniel Ridge Loop and took the right fork past Daniel Ridge Falls. We continued to the Cove Creek connector trail and on to the Cove Creek Campground where we found a long-distance mountain biking challenge in progress, as well as a number of outdoor gear outfitters displaying their wares. There were dozens of tents on display, popping up like a spring garden. Hoping perhaps for a free sample handout, we were disappointed when no one even acknowledged our presence. We must have been ghost hikers. It’s like we didn’t even exist.

You have an option at this point. You can take either the Cove Creek Trail up the left side of the loop or the Caney Bottom Trail up the right. Both will get you to the same place, so choose your preference. I’ve previously written about the two, so perhaps that will help you decide. We chose the blue-blazed Caney Bottom side and dove into the forest. To avoid redundancy, I’ll pick this report up where the two trails meet at their northern junction.

At the junction, if you hang a left there is a rolling meadow a couple hundred yards away that is a nice spot for lunch or frolic. We took the right fork with yellow blaze however, as that’s the way to FR225. It isn’t far, perhaps another half mile. For the past week I’d been seeing lots of pictures posted on the Internet of those odd looking springy curly-cues known as fiddlehead ferns. Well, we found some on this trail. That’s the photo at the top of this post. Give it a click to see the full size image. They only last is this position for a few days. Once they unravel, they form the regular ferns that we’re all so familiar with in summer.

The next seven miles or so is all FR225. Some of it is grassy. Some of it has gravel, even a stretch that looks like new gravel was poured just this spring. Most of it is simply dirt just like any ole forest service road that winds in and out of hollows, up and down ridges, and crosses a myriad of streams and branches.

We passed 4-5 different waterfalls, crossed at least a half dozen creeks, all the while bathed in glorious sunshine on a Carolina bluebird day. The dogwood was just starting to pop out, finally. After the long, cold winter many of the flowering trees and shrubs have been weeks late this year. You’re hiking in the 3000′ range here, so there are no evergreens, but the forest is bursting with the finest hardwood varieties. The maple and oak saplings had the brightest green new growth on them unlike their brethren standing high above that are still a fortnight away from opening their new leaves.

At one of the more scenic creek cascades we stopped for some lunch and to behold all the miniature wildflowers cast about. There were violets, both white and purple, chickweed and bitterweed, and of course more of the funny fiddleheads. We kept searching for the elusive and rare springtime delights, but everything just seems to be weeks behind the Tennessee side of the Smokies this year.

Grace the Wonderdog

There are a couple of forest road junctions along the circuit. Just make sure to continue on the ungated pathway and you will remain on FR225. At one of the junctions while we were paused for pictures, we were rushed by a rather muscular black dog, followed by a retriever, and then a boxer all of them off leash. It was a touch alarming, as we were also walking with Grace the Wonderdog, and we were concerned about these rogues attacking her. 100 feet down the road here came the owners struggling with two other dogs and hurrying to catch up.

Nothing happened this time, but it certainly could have. For those of you who like to walk your dogs in the national forest, please keep them on leash. You just never know what might happen. Yes, you are familiar with your dogs, and they are always friendly around you. You can’t imagine that they would ever attack another dog, or even a human. But… all it takes is once. With all these large dogs all charging at once, this could have been a very unfortunate scene.

The last of the junctions actually connects with a manway that climbs Lanning Ridge and pops out on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Graveyard Fields. Perhaps I’ll give that a go some time in winter, as a means of accessing the closed Parkway. When you reach this point, you are nearly to the end of FR225 and you need to start looking for the connector trail to Daniel Ridge. It drops off downhill to the left.

It is between a quarter and half mile down this connector to its meeting with the red-blazed Daniel Ridge Loop. From there it’s a repeat of what I wrote about before. You will come to the junction that goes to Farlow Gap, turn left and then follow Lanning Branch all the way back to the parking area.

We encountered more wildflowers, including some trillium just beginning to strut their stuff, and of course the beauty that is Lanning Branch. I believe it to be the most picturesque creek in all of the Pisgah Ranger District.

In summary, if you’re looking for a day hike that is longer than the Cove Creek/Caney Bottom Loop or the Daniel Ridge Loop, Forest Road 225 is a means of connecting the two to make a five hour combination. Sure, it’s mostly hiking on road, but there are still several miles of single track trail and the charm of Caney Creek and Lanning Branch. It isn’t especially difficult and is easily doable in all four seasons.

 

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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