Views at Water Rock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Elk roaming in Cataloochee Valley
Length: 4.2 miles
This trail has an elevation gain of only 900 feet. It is well known for the variety of magnificent trees. The trailhead is on Caldwell Fork Trail. After leaving Caldwell Fork, the trail ascends a low ridge to a gap with only two additional short climbs, reaches a side ridge, and descends back to Caldwell Fork. It is best to do this trail as a day hike from Cataloochee Campground, a 7.5-mile roundtrip.
Directions: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west to US 276, turn right on Cove Creek road. Stay on Cove Creek Road for 12 miles. This will takeyou 2 miles beyond park boundary. Trail will be on the left.
Caldwell Fork Trail
Length: 5.1 miles
This moderate lower creek trail gains 1,300 feet in elevation. It follows a rushing mountain stream for nearly 5 miles with log footbridges at every stream crossing. The trail is heavily used by horses. The prettiest sections are on Boogerman Trail or at the upper end near three exceptionally large "Big Poplars," believed to be among the largest yellow poplars in the Park. The largest of the three is eight feet in diameter.
Directions: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west on US 276 turn right on Cove Creek road. Stay on Cove Creek Road for 12 miles. Trail will be on the left.
Max Patch Mountain (4,629 feet)
Length: 300-foot climb
Directions: Exit 7 off Interstate 40. Beautiful grassy bald with great views. Follow USFS trail Max Patch Bald summit. Return via AT (right on AT) to road, or leave shuttle car at USFS parking area and continue driving on Max Patch Road for 3.6 miles to Lemon Gap on state line and park. Follow AT south for 6.0 miles to summit of Max Patch Mountain and down USFS trail to shuttle car.
Graveyard Fields Trail (5,120 feet)
Length: 3.2 miles
This is a popular family hike because of its beauty and ease. Moderate climb of almost a mile to the base of an impressive waterfall. After crossing the bridge, the main trail goes left and upstream. A 0.25-mile trail to the right leads to Lower Falls. The main trail will take you through open, grassy areas, and past pools for wading on a hot summer day. After one mile, you will see the trail to the Upper Falls. The main trail crosses the Yellowstone Prong and returns to the parking lot. Directions: This trail begins at the Graveyard Fields Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the U.S. Highway 276 junction with the parkway, turn left or south on the Parkway and continue to milepost 418.8 (about 6 miles).
Rough Fork Trail
Length: 6.5 miles
This trail begins by following a stream along a gravel road for a couple of miles and then passes several restored farm houses. This trail begins on Caldwell Fork Trail. The middle section becomes a narrow footpath, travels through impressive forest, and follows a wide railroad grade for several miles to Polls Gap (indicated on older maps as Paul's Gap). No water after Campsite 40.
Directions: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west on US 276; turn right on Cove Creek Rd. Stay on Cove Creek Rd. for 12 miles. Trail will be on the left.
Buckeye Ridge Trail Length: 5.4 miles Rating: Moderate This trail winds through grassy fields and wooded areas. It provides panoramic views of the countryside in some spots. The grassy ridges of Max Patch Mountain near the Tennessee state line crown the area. Trails combined with forest service roads to provide loop opportunities. Directions: Take Harmon Den Exit 7 off I-40 near the NC/TN state line. Head northeast on FR 148 (Cold Springs Road) about 3 miles to Harmon Den parking area on the left. Parking for trailers is also available at lower junction of FR 148 and 3526. Graveyard Ridge Trail Length: 3.4 miles Rating: Moderate There are outstanding views of Graveyard Fields and visibility to S.C. on clear days. The first two miles are for hikers only because of the fragile soils. After leaving the Graveyard Fields Trail, climb through a grass bald to an old railroad grade. Turn left onto the old railroad grade. At Dark Prong Gap the trail is open to horses and mountain bikes. It is also open seasonally to 4-wheel drives from August-Jan. 2. This trail ends at Ivestor Gap. Blaze: Orange. Directions: Walk the Graveyard Fields Trail counterclockwise until intersecting the Graveyard Ridge Trail. Groundhog Creek Trail Length: 2.4 miles Rating: Moderate/Strenuous A 9.5-mile loop can be hiked by combining the Groundhog Creek, Appalachian Trail or Rube Rock Trail. The trail descends along Groundhog Creek for most its length. Just below the shelter, the trail crosses an old road. Directions: From Interstate 40 take exit 7 into Harmon Den Bear Sanctuary and take FR 148 (Cold Springs Road). Follow FR 148 to the Harmon Den Parking Area. Just past the parking area, turn right onto FR 148A. Follow FR 148A to the top of the ridge where the ridge where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. Access the trail by going south on the Appalachian Trail 2.9 miles. FR 148 can also be accessed from the Interstate 40 via the Harmon Den Exit. Hemphill Bald-Double Gap Trail Length: 8.4 miles Rating: Moderate Climbs steeply on switchbacks after Maggot Spring and until Hemphill Bald. This trail starts on the Caldwell Fork Trail. There are several superb lookouts. This trail is used extensively by horses but is generally in good condition. There are few water sources along this ridge; the most reliable is a strong spring about 1 mile east of Polls Gap. Directions to Caldwell Fork Trail: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west on US 276 turn right on Cove Creek Road. Stay on Cove Creek Road for 12 miles. Trail will be on the left. Little Cataloochee Trail Length: 5 miles Rating: Moderate This moderate lowland trail gains only 900 feet in over 5 miles. There are plenty of water sources and several old rock foundations and chimneys. A restored church in Little Cataloochee has an interesting cemetery on the ridge below.
Directions: The trailheads are at Palmer Creek, about 1 mile from the end of the paved section of Cataloochee Road at the Cataloochee Horse Camp, and at a signed gate along the gravel Cataloochee Big Creek Road Little Sam Trail Length: 4.0 miles Rating: Moderate Start from Black Balsam parking area. Take the Flat Creek Trail out of the southern end of the parking lot. After approximately one mile, turn right (uphill) on the Little Sam Trail. Trail goes up, down, then back up before intersecting a junction with several confusing trails. Pick one of the two on your right (one's the actual Little Sam Trail; the other's not and is unnamed, but will still get you there). Both of these trails dead-end into the Mountains to Sea Trail. Turn left. At the junction with Art Loeb Trail, bear left (uphill) for a relatively steep climb before leveling out and coming to Black Balsam Road. Follow the road back to the parking area. Directions: Take the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile marker 420. Turn into Black Balsam parking area at FR 816. This is also the entrance area to the Shining Rock Wilderness. Robert Gap Trail Length: 2.5 miles Rating: Moderate This trail follows old logging roads and offers some views in the winter. The forest shows hints of its past history — farming, logging, narrow gauge railroads, settlements, and signs of recent forest management. The grassy ridges of Max Patch Mountain near the Tennessee state line crown the area. Trails combined with forest service roads to pro- vide loop opportunities. Directions: Take Harmon Den Exit 7 off I-40 near the NC/TN state line. Head northeast on FR 148 (Cold Springs Road) about 3 miles to Harmon Den parking area on the left. Parking for trailers is also available at lower junction of FR 148 and 3526. Rough Creek Watershed Length: 10 miles Rating: Moderate The Rough Creek Watershed Trail system (see mountain biking section for directions) is located in the Beaverdam area of Canton, incorporates historical road beds with more than 10 miles of ecologically sound trails, which allow both foot and mountain bike traffic. 870 acres of protected mountain land is an excellent, near-pristine example of the ecosystems once found more abundantly in the region. It contains nearly seven miles of streams and swamp/bog areas. The biodiversity of the Rough Creek Watershed rivals that of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the pristine water is classified by the state of North Carolina as an outstanding water resource. Art Loeb Trail Length: 12.3 miles Rating: Strenuous The Art Loeb Trail, 30.1 miles long, is a national recreation trail and named after a local hiking enthusiast. The trail traverses beautiful terrain, from some of the lowest to some of the highest points on the Pisgah District. Most of the Art Loeb Trail is overlapped by the Mountains-to-the Sea Trail. It begins at the Davidson River and climbs steeply to Shut-in Ridge. Once up, don't expect that the hard part is over. This trail will take you up and down knobs, along ridges and down into several gaps. Directions: Go 0.2 mile south of Pisgah District Ranger Station on U.S. 276 and turn onto the road to Davidson River Campground. Park in the Art Loeb Trailhead parking lot. The other end of this section is at Gloucester Gap on FS Road 471, where overnight parking is not recommended. Art Loeb Trail Section 2 Length: 7.2 miles Rating: Strenuous From Gloucester Gap the trail climbs to Pilot Mountain, a former fire tower site with a 360-degree view. In mid-May the north side of Pilot Mountain is abloom with pinkshell azalea. There is a shelter and spring at Deep Gap. Grass balds and an abundance of Catawba rhododendron make this a good spot to hike in late June when these showy shrubs bloom. Near Silvermine Bald the Mountains-to-Sea Trail splits to the west while the Art Loeb Trail follows the ridge northeast to FS Road 816. Blaze: White. Directions: Start from Gloucester Gap, which is 4.5 miles west of the State Fish Hatchery on FS Road 475. (It is not recommended to leave cars overnight here.) Big Fork Ridge Trail
Length: 3.0 miles
This low ridge trail links Caldwell Fork and Rough Fork in the middle of Cataloochee Valley. Crossing the low ridge separating these two parallel creeks and trails, you will hike a moderate, 3-mile stretch. Directions: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west on NC 276 turn right on Cove Creek road. Stay on Cove Creek Road for 12 miles. Trail will be on the left.
Cataloochee Divide Trail (5,540 feet)
Length: 14 miles
Cove Creek Road off US 276 North. 1,500-foot climb to Hemphill Bald, an open pasture area with beautiful vistas. You may opt to station shuttle car at termination of Paul's Gap Trail, reducing walking distance to 11.5 miles. Hiking: Take trail on left (SW); follow well-defined trail to Hemphill Bald (7 miles) or beyond.
Cherry Creek Trail
Length: 1.6 miles
This trail features steep rocky sections and some tight switchbacks. The grassy ridges of Max Patch Mountain near the Tennessee state line crown the area. Trails combined with forest service roads to provide loop opportunities.
Directions: Take Harmon Den Exit 7 off I-40 near the NC/TN state line. Head north- east on FR 148 (Cold Springs Road) about 3 miles to Harmon Den parking area on the left. Parking for trailers is also available at lower junction of FR 148 and 3526.
Cherry Ridge Trail Length: 1.0 miles Rating: Strenuous This trail is fairly steep and connects to Harmon Den and Max Patch. The grassy ridges of Max Patch Mountain near the Tennessee state line crown the area. Trails combined with forest service roads to provide loop opportunities. Directions: Take Harmon Den Exit off I-40 near the NC/TN state line. Head northeast on FR 148 (Cold Springs Road) about 3 miles to Harmon Den parking area on the left. Parking for trailers is also available at lower junction of FR 148 and 3526. McKee Branch Trail Length: 2.4 miles Rating: Strenuous This trail is extremely strenuous and very steep. This creek headwater trail ascends 2.3 miles to Cataloochee Divide, which includes a 1,700-foot climb. No dependable water sources after the second stream crossing. Directions: Take exit 20 off I-40 (Cove Creek) and travel west on US 276 turn right on Cove Creek road. Stay on Cove Creek Road for 12 miles. Trail will be on the left. Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail Length: 10 miles Rating: Strenuous This moderate high ridge trail descends 900 hundred feet over 6 miles. The descent is steady from the Mt. Sterling Fire Tower to Pretty Hollow Gap. The trail climbs steeply out of the gap and follows the relatively level ridge to Laurel Gap. The campsite near here (Mt. Sterling Campsite #38) is heavily used and there always seems to be a resident bear nearby. The campsite has been recently moved away from the fire tower and closer to the water source. If you climb Baxter Creek Trail from Big Creek to Mt. Sterling, the side trail to the water source is about 0.25 miles from the summit. Directions: On US 276 before its junction with I-40 (exit 20) in Cove Creek, turn north on Little Cove Rd. (SR-1331). Drive 1.3 miles and turn right on Old NC-284 (SR-1395), also called Cataloochee Rd. Go 1.1 mile upstream from the ranger station. Pretty Hollow Gap Trail Length: 5.0 miles Rating: Strenuous This strenuous creek headwater trail is 5 miles long and rises 2,300 feet, connecting Cataloochee Valley and Mt. Sterling Ridge. There is a magnificent stand of huge hemlock at the last crossing (a log bridge), about 3 miles from the trail- head on Cataloochee Road. Local lore say there is a fantastic section of virgin forest up Cook's Creek, but the only trail is a rough fisherman's path. After that last stream crossing, the trail becomes very muddy. There are several 100-yard sections of deep mud that must be conquered before reaching the gap. Directions: On US 276 before its junction with I-40 (exit 20) in Cove Creek, turn North on Little Cove Rd. (SR-1331). Drive 1.3 miles and turn right on Old NC-284 (SR-1395), also called Cataloochee Rd. Go 1.1 mile upstream from the ranger station. Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway Mile Post 451.2 Length: 0.6 mile Rating: Moderate/Strenuous The Plott Balsam and Great Balsam ranges meet at Waterrock, rising in elevation to 6,292 feet. It is the second highest of all Parkway peaks and one of the highest in the eastern United States. Waterrock Knob is known for its beautiful long range views of several major mountain chains in the Appalachians, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Pisgah Ridge, Nantahala, Cowee, and the Blue Ridge Ranges. With a nearly 360 degree vantage point, it is uniquely suited for viewing sunrises and sunsets, especially during the equinoxes in March and September.
Downtown Waynesville Cardio Trail
Length: 6.2 miles
Walk the international way. Tour 6.2 miles of the down- town Waynesville area on a 10-K walking route designated for international volksporting. For more information and map, visit Mast General Store in downtown Waynesville or call 828.456.3517
Lake Junaluska Trail
Length: 2.6 miles
Explore the 1,200-acre Methodist retreat. A walking path lined with native flowers and plants leads around the picturesque lake.
Richland Creek Walking Trail
Length: 1.1 mile
Handicapped accessible fishing facility and the only designated catch and released stocked creek in Waynesville.
The Waynesville Greenway follows Richland Creek for 5.3 miles. Visitors will enjoy hiking or biking this trail, which ends at the Waynesville Recreation Park. The addition of the connection of the Lake Junaluska Trail to the Waynesville Greenway provides a great opportunity to travel between the Lake and Waynesville without having to drive.
Directions: When Driving: Take a left out of North Lakeshore Drive. Take the first right after Holston Village Road to park and begin the trail. When Walking: Walk left out of North Lakeshore Drive. Walk along the sidewalk until you are past Holston Village Road.
Haywood County official North Carolina Birding Trails.
For more information on the trails visit www.ncbirdingtrail.org
Lake Junaluska Assembly
Lake Junaluska is a 200 acre lake surrounded by a 1,200 acre retreat and conference center. From the Welcome Center, follow North Lakeshore Drive to Memory Lane. Turn right on Memory Lane and park at the Aquatic Center, which provides a good panoramic view of the lake.
What to look for: During winter, Pied billed Grebe, American Coot, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, and Ring necked and Ruddy Ducks can be seen on the lake. From the pool, return to North Lakeshore Drive and turn right. In 0.5 miles, bear right on Chapel Lane and turn into the Memorial Chapel parking lot, which provides another good view of the lake. Check for Ring billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls. Common Loon can be seen from this viewing point in early winter and spring. Continue on to the Junaluska Cross and further around the lake on North Lakeshore Drive as it rises in elevation. At the crest of the hill is a parking area with another great view of the lake. Scan the lake in fall and late winter for Common Loon, Blue winged and Green winged Teal, Gadwall, Wood Duck, Redhead, Bufflehead, and Red breasted Merganser. Greater Scaup and Common Goldeneye are occasionally present. Occasionally, Horned Grebe and Caspian and Forster’s Terns can also be seen.
Directions: Coming from Asheville or points east, take I 40 West to Exit 27 (US 19/23). Travel 3.5 miles on US 19/23 and take Exit 103. Travel about 1 mile to the front entrance of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center on the right.
Max Patch in the Pisgah National Forest
Start southwest of Hot Springs on N.C. 206/Max Patch Road. Continue to parking area for Max Patch Bald, a 4,026- foot elevation grassy bald with spectacular views. Continue down road to a small trout pond about .5 miles past parking area. Walk through rhododendron thicket on the right. Turn around and go back down Max Patch Road to Cold Springs Road for about 3 miles to parking area on the left. Walk to Horse Camp. Then continue down Cold Springs Road to I-40. What to look for: Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Orchard Oriole, Yellow breasted Chat, Golden winged and Chestnut sided Warblers. Also watch and listen for American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Least Flycatcher, House Wren, Northern Bobwhite, and Red tailed and Broad winged Hawks. As the habitat changes from open fields to forest, check for Worm eating Warbler, Dark eyed Junco, Blackburnian Warbler and American Redstart. Be sure to watch for Ruffed Grouse near the roadside. Northern Bobwhite, Field Sparrow, and Barn and Rough winged Swallows are all possibilities on the bald. Hooded, Black throated Blue, Chestnut sided and Canada Warblers, Winter and House Wrens, Dark eyed Junco and Broad winged Hawk.
Directions: From I-40, take Exit 24 and head north on NC 209 (Crabtree Road, which becomes Rush Fork Road). After 8 miles, at the intersection of Betsy’s Gap Road, stay straight – this road becomes Max Patch Road (SR 1182). Follow Max Patch Road for approximately 13 miles, to the parking area for Max Patch Bald.
Big Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Numerous hiking trails depart from the Big Creek camping area, some of which follow the creek, others head up the ridge to the Appalachian Trail. The Baxter Creek and Big Creek Trails start at the picnic area. Chestnut Branch Trail starts at the ranger station and connects to the Appalachian Trail; back country permits can be filled out at the Big Creek Ranger Station.
What to look for: Blue headed and Red eyed Vireos, Yellow throated, Black throated Green, Black throated Blue, Hooded, and Black and white Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Louisiana Waterthrush, Wood Thrush, Veery, Scarlet Tanager and Rose breasted Grosbeak. Whip poor will and Wild Turkey may appear anywhere. Directions: Exit 451 (TN) off I-40, at Waterville Haywood County. Follow signs to Big Creek campground.
Heintooga Spur Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The remoteness of this area from the more popular parts of the Great Smoky Mountains make the 9-mile Heintooga Spur Road ideal for easily accessible birding away from heavy traffic. Spring arrives late in this area. The best birding begins in May and continues through June and into early July. What to look for: Red Crossbill in late spring and summer. Least Flycatcher, Pine Siskin, Hermit Thrush, Black capped Chickadee, Black throated Green, Black throated Blue, Canada, Blackburnian, Black and white, and Chestnut sided Warblers. Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and occasionally an elk can be found walking along the road. Stop at the Mile High Overlook and listen for Black billed Cuckoo, which have occasionally been heard in this area. Other species include Winter Wren, Veery, Golden crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Dark eyed Junco and Red breasted Nuthatch.
Directions: From Maggie Valley, take NC 19 west to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance at Soco Gap (Milepost 455.7). Once on the Parkway, turn toward Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Heintooga Spur Road is at Wolf Laurel Gap (Milepost 458.2), about 3 miles from Soco Gap.
Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Waterrock Knob is an interesting and convenient stopover for birders traveling along the southwestern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Information, exhibits and restrooms are available during the summer at the Visitor Center; the panoramic view is spectacular; and the 1.2 mile loop trail to the 6,400-foot summit and back provides some excellent high elevation birding through a variety of habitats.
What to look for: From May through September, look for Broad winged Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Saw whet Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black capped Chickadee, Red breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Golden crowned Kinglet, Veery, Cedar Waxwing, Blue headed Vireo, Dark eyed Junco, and Chestnut sided, Black throated Blue, Black throated Green, Blackburnian, Black and white and Canada Warblers. Tennessee and Bay breasted Warblers become fairly common in September and early October. Although most birds leave the area by late fall, Common Raven, Red breasted Nuthatch, Black capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Dark eyed Junco and Golden crowned Kinglet may remain through the winter. Directions: Mileposts 451.2, Haywood County. From Maggie Valley, take NC 19 west to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance at Soco Gap. Once on the Parkway, turn east toward Asheville. Waterrock Knob is about 4.5 miles from Soco Gap.
Southern Great Balsam Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Birding this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway gives the birder a sensation of being in the far north. The climate, habitat, and bird species are more reminiscent of Canada than the southern US.
What to look for: Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Red breasted Nuthatch, Golden crowned Kinglet, Veery, Dark eyed Junco and Blue headed Vireo are common throughout the area. Watch for Common Raven and flocks of Pine Siskin, Cedar Waxwing and Red Crossbill. Canada, Chestnut sided, Black throated Green, Black throated Blue and Blackburnian Warblers. This area is the southernmost extent of the range of the Hermit Thrush and Black capped Chickadee. In May, listen for Northern Saw whet Owl after dark near Richland Balsam and at other overlooks along the parkway, and look for displaying American Woodcock at dusk at the Cowee Mountains Overlook. For birding away from traffic, take the Mountains to Sea Trail, which parallels the parkway in some areas. Access points with good parking can be found at the Rough Butt Bald Overlook and the Bear Pen Gap Overlook. The 1.5 mile loop trail to the top of Richland Balsam and back is accessible from the Haywood Jackson Overlook; this is an excellent location to look for Black capped Chickadee.
Directions: From Waynesville take US 23/74 west to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance at Balsam Gap (Milepost 443.1). Head east on the Parkway for 11 miles to the Richland Balsam Overlook (Milepost 431.4).