Little River Trail, South Mountains State Park

For a scenic stroll along a horse path through the South Mountains forest, you may give Little River Trail a try. Starting at the Cicero Branch parking area and climbing above Jacob Fork gorge, you will pass viewpoints for the North Carolina Piedmont and follow Little River to the end of the trail at a small but treacherous hidden waterfall. I hiked to Little River Falls...

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High Shoals Falls Loop, South Mountains State Park

North Carolina’s South Mountains State Park has more than 45 miles of marked trails. No doubt the most popular is the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, a short, but tough climb to an 80-foot crystal-clear free-fall. Travel for a mile along rocky Jacob Fork River before beginning the steep ascent that requires stairs to navigate the tough terrain. From a viewing...

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Trombatore Trail to Blue Ridge Pastures, Hickory Nut Gorge

Blue Ridge Pastures is a grassy knoll northwest of Bearwallow Mountain along the Buncombe/Henderson County line. With terrific views of Hickory Nut Gorge, and on clear days The Great Craggy and Black Mountains, the reward for your hard work pays off. The Trombatore Trail will make you climb twice for your reward, once before and once after, but keep that reward in mind...

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Land trust adds to wildlife corridor in Jackson County, NC

Located less than 2 miles from Panthertown Valley in Jackson County, a new conservation easement will provide a critical wildlife corridor, connecting three other easements. The 48-acre Black Bear Trail property, now held by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, becomes part of a continuous natural area of more than 1,000 acres, including habitat ranging from forest to...

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Seniard Ridge Trail to Log Hollow Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Occasionally a nice easy stroll to a beautiful waterfall is just what the doctor ordered. I made this a three and a half mile loop, but you can actually get to the waterfall in a mile round trip. The woods off FR 475B in Pisgah National Forest are dense and filled with mountain streams running down from the Blue Ridge high above. One of these streams is Log Hollow...

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Buffalo Creek Park, Hickory Nut Gorge

Buffalo Creek Park is the gateway to 1,500 acres of land conserved by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on Weed Patch Mountain that protects the northern headwaters of Lake Lure in Hickory Nut Gorge. The town of Lake Lure has since purchased 200 acres for the creation of Buffalo Creek Park and a network of hiking and mountain biking trails. When fully developed, it...

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Master plan to be prepared for NC’s Mountains-to-Sea State Trail

Ideas to be gathered from partners, stakeholders and the public will be a major component of a master planning process underway to guide completion of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The 1,000-mile trail corridor will ultimately link Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the...

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NC’s ongoing coal ash regulatory disaster shows urgency of EPA action

It’s been 10 months since a pipe broke beneath a coal ash waste pit at a shuttered Duke Energy power plant in North Carolina, sending 39,000 tons of toxic waste into the Dan River, a drinking water source for downstream communities in Virginia and North Carolina. One might think that 10 months would have been enough time for the company and North Carolina state...

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Land near Appalachian Trail conserved

As the popular Appalachian Trail continues to morph and grow and attract more users and admirers, protecting the land that hugs the footpath and winds into its view is more important than ever, conservationists say. And now one of the more popular access points to the trail in Mitchell County, North Carolina has a little more elbow room in permanent preservation. The...

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10 great stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picture the Blue Ridge Parkway as a crooked spine running through the Appalachian Mountains. Government stewardship of public lands is splashed across the map in confusing variety – a national park at either end, national forests, historic sites, monuments and state parks along its 469 miles. The road snakes through some of the most glorious fall color in North America...

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High Peaks Tackles Black Mountain Crest Trail on October 18th

The North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association will lead one of its most challenging – and rewarding – hikes of the year when the club takes on the Black Mountain Crest Trail on Oct. 18, 2014. The outing will be followed by a pot luck supper and party in the Cattail Community. The 8-mile jaunt will begin at Mt. Mitchell, proceed down to Deep Gap and then descend steeply...

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Cat Gap & Butter Gap Trails to Grogan Creek Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Looking for an easy hike of less than five miles that will take you to several different waterfalls? Yes? Then this just might be the one for you. It starts on the ever popular Cat Gap Trail, passes two falls on Cedar Rock Creek and a whitewater cascade on John Branch before hopping on the Butter Gap Trail to follow Grogan Creek through Picklesimer Fields to the truly...

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Reach the Peaks Hiking Challenge Sept. 27

If you’re looking for a challenge, look no further than Hanging Rock State Park and the 2nd annual “Reach the Peaks” hiking challenge scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. The hike already has over 160 registrations and the number of registered hikers is rapidly increasing each day. Reach the Peaks, a strenuous 11 mile hike, will challenge participants to summit the...

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Big Fork Ridge, Caldwell Fork, & Rough Fork Loop at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Start your morning with the elk rut in Cataloochee Valley. Then gear up for this enchanting deep forest hike that includes mountain creek crossings, giant old growth tulip poplar and hemlock, occasional views of the Smoky Mountains surrounding the valley, and a stroll down memory lane at historic settler homesteads. Enjoy this 10-mile loop in three segments, on three...

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Deep Creek Waterfalls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Deep Creek area in the Smokies, just north of Bryson City, NC, is a water wonderland. Creeks and branches descend through every nook down the surrounding mountains. The documentarian Ken Burns describes Deep Creek as one of his favorite places to visit in the national park. Three picturesque waterfalls are in close proximity to the campground, and hiking trails...

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Hike On This Fall With Jackson County, N.C.’s New Hiking Map

Explore the Western N.C. towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Cullowhee, Glenville and Sapphire like never before with Jackson County’s new hiking map. The map, which was just released this fall, includes directions to 19 waterfalls, nine hiking trails, three multiple-use trails for riding or biking, five semi-private or public golf courses, three...

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High Peaks to Lead Hike Over Roan Mountain

Join the High Peaks Trail Association for a jaunt over spectacular Roan Mountain on Sept. 20, 2014. This difficult 6.3-mile trek will reward hikers with great views from the top of one of the region’s signature peaks. Hikers should assemble on the Burnsville, NC Town Square at 8:30 a.m. Transportation will be provided by a Yancey County van for a fee of $5 per person....

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Norman Wilder Forest, Pacolet Area Conservancy

Located in an area of Polk County, NC between Tryon and Saluda, the Norman Wilder Forest is a conservation easement that first opened to the public in 2001. Owned and operated by the Pacolet Area Conservancy, the 185 acres of protected mature third growth mixed hardwood forest provide hikers with a small trail system that meanders beneath the shady canopy. Lying on the...

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Hickory Nut Gorge celebrates waterfall access, trailhead into park

An impromptu appearance of a dozen hikers was affirmation for the 50 people sitting at a ceremony on folding chairs that Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy had succeeded in their goal of expanding access to the Hickory Nut Gorge’s growing trail network. The ceremony along Highway 74-A was hosted by CMLC and Henderson County Parks and Recreation to celebrate several...

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The Cradle of Forestry Hosts Afternoon Tea with Llamas

The Cradle of Forestry in America will offer “Afternoon Tea with Llamas” on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. The llamas will carry your lunches or snacks on this easy walk along the Forest Discovery Trail at the Cradle of Forestry. Organizers will provide ice tea and cups. As the group walks the Forest Discovery Trail, children can take turns...

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Trace Ridge Trails and Roads Reopened in Pisgah

The U.S. Forest Service has reopened all trails and roads in the Trace Ridge and Wash Creek Area after completing an ecosystem improvement project in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. All roads and trails have been reopened to their designated use, including Wash Creek Road, which restores motorized access to the Trace Ridge Trailhead. The roads and...

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Bradley Fork and Smokemont Loop Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Water. Forest. Mountains. History. For me, that is what Great Smoky Mountains National Park is all about. On the Smokemont Loop hike you will get all of them. For the first couple miles, stroll along one of those beautiful mountain streams the Smokies are known for, then prepare your legs and lungs for a tough climb 1,350 feet through the forest to the top of the ridge....

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Big Butt Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway & Pisgah National Forest

Another foray into the Black Mountains led us to summits with names like Point Misery, Little Butt and Big Butt. The Big Butt Trail takes off from Balsam Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway along Brush Fence Ridge, roller-coastering across several peaks and gaps. The forest is filled with floral and fungal oddities, and old-growth spruce and pine that protect the ridge like...

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Douglas Falls Trail from Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes you have to work for the reward at the end of the trail. Hiking from Craggy Gardens to Douglas Falls is a prime example. You will descend 1,350 feet from the Blue Ridge Parkway to this 70-foot waterfall through a luscious forest of birch, maple, and beech, even enjoying old growth hemlock along the way. Expect a rough hike, as the terrain is very rugged in the...

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Building the Blue Ridge Parkway

Early in the 20th Century, there were very few National Parks in the eastern portion of the United States. Forward-thinking dreamers in the government purchased the lands for Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the late 1920’s, and that led to the idea of a plan for a scenic motor road that would connect the two parks and their...

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High in the N.C. mountains, prominent hikers bridge political differences

The politically odd couple striding up a rocky trail in the Roan highlands came to celebrate a conservation landmark, and to plot its rebirth. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Sen. Richard Burr, the conservative North Carolina Republican, are unlikely partners in promoting the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund turns 50 in September and, to survive,...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Over Blackstock Knob to Balsam Gap, Mt. Mitchell State Park

Hiking among the giants of the East. That’s what you’re doing when you take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell State Park for this trek on the Mountains to Sea Trail in the Black Mountains. With fabulous views of the Blacks and the Great Craggy Range, and closeup experiences with gnarly old growth fir and spruce krummholz, this stretch of the MtS is some...

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Grassy Creek Falls, Table Rock Trail and Lake Dense, DuPont State Forest

There are 84 named trails in DuPont State Forest. This robust and mature trail system is a series of arteries that connect the various and disparate sections of this family friendly recreation area. In the central region of the state forest I put together a semi-loop hike that took me first to a waterfall, then to a hilltop summit, and finally to the tranquil banks of a...

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Turkeypen Gap Trail and South Mills River Trail Loop, Pisgah National Forest

I always enjoy hikes along the South Mills River in the Pisgah Ranger District. This loop follows the north side of the riverbank for several miles along an old logging road. But to get there, first you cross Sharpy Mountain from Turkeypen Gap. The trail travels through beautiful hardwood and heath forest as it roller-coasters across four gaps to its meeting with Wagon...

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Mt. Mitchell State Park Trail System

This hike will introduce you to a good cross section of the trails found in Mt. Mitchell State Park high atop the Black Mountains in Western North Carolina. Mt. Mitchell is the highest point in the Eastern United States at 6,684′, in fact six of the 10 highest peaks are found in the Blacks. The climate of the Black Mountains is more like Canada than North Carolina....

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