Today was a very short hike up the right fork of the Coon Tree Trail. We only hiked to the ridge junction and turned around and hiked down. Nice day in low 40’s. The trail was muddy and there were a lot of trees down after the wind and ice storms last month.
We passed several women on the trail. Only one man and his wife were finishing up as we got started.
The creeks were up. There is a lot of water running out of the mountains right now. The ground is real squishy.
2.0 Miles Round Trip from Exclamation Point – Elevation Gain: 472′
After several years of closure, the Skyline Trail was re-opened in September of 2017. Apparently, the original trail was closed after a toddler fell to its death. Since then, the trail has been re-routed and fencing was added at the top of Hickory Nut Falls to keep traffic from wandering too close to the top of the falls.
To get to the trailhead, you need to park in the upper parking lot at Chimney Rock State Park and take the steps up to the Chimney. Continue on from the Chimney up past the Devil’s Head to Exclamation Point. Climbing the steps from the upper parking lot to Exclamation Point is work. I counted the steps a few years back and this is what you will be dealing with just to get to the trailhead.
The trail is a woodland walk that is set back slightly from the steep ridge-side. You aren’t exposed to the escarpment, but if you were to get off the trail, it could be dangerous. You walk .4 of a mile through the woods to a picnic area with 2 tables and a fenced look off area looking across the gorge toward Rumbling Bald and Party Rock.
Continue on the trail through the woods and there are a few creek crossings. Forestry roads crisscross the trail at regular intervals. A significant amount of the trail is graveled. When you get to the end, there is a nice railing approximately 50 feet above the creek that keeps hikers away from the upper cascades and the top of Hickory Nut Falls. It is far enough away to keep hikers safe, but not quite close enough to get a good view of the falls. I was a bit disappointed, but I totally understand why the trail is where it is.
It’s a nice peaceful walk in the woods. Well worth the time it takes.
Park where the Mountains to the Sea Trail intersects Hwy 215 north of the Blueridge Parkway and hike east on the Mountains to the Sea Trail. Hike a little over 2 miles and fork left on Little Sam Knob trail. Hike for approximately 1.5 miles to the intersection of the Flat Laurel Creek Trail and take a left. Hike back down to Hwy 215.
As the summers here in the south are hot and humid, we try to find trails that are as high in the air as possible. Most of this loop is over a mile in elevation making this a good “hot weather” hike.
The idea was to plan a 2 hour hike during the cool morning hours up high somewhere where it wouldn’t be quite as hot. We thought this hike would fill the bill but we were wrong in our memory about the length and the time involved.
The hike begins at the Pisgah Inn parking lot and follows the Mountains to the Sea trail behind the workers quarters toward Mt. Pisgah. At 0.64 miles, take a right turn toward Pilot Rock.
Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1516′
You climb about 250 feet over Little Bald Mtn from the junction and then begin your descent down to Pilot Rock. We walked 2.8 miles before we decided to turn around and go back. We stopped just short of reaching our goal because it was taking longer than we had anticipated. The total duration of our hike was 2 hours and 44 minutes.
Park at the Rough Butt Bald Overlook and walk across the Parkway to the Mountains to the Sea Trail. This section of the MTS runs parallel to the Parkway for several hundred yards before it forks right into the Middle Prong Wilderness proper.
It had been some time since we had hiked these trails and wanted to see if we could find the way out to Green Knob before the summer weeds take over the trails. In the hottest summer months, the briar thickets hang out over several sections of the trails in this area and if you have on shorts and t-shirts, you can get fairly scratched up. Ask me how I know.
Junction at 1.87 Mile Point
Anyway, the briars had not come out yet this year so we thought we would be able to find the trail easily. 1.33 miles from the trailhead, we took the right fork. So far, so good. At 1.87 miles, we came to another junction. We turned left. We went another 1/4 mile or so came to a stand of spruce trees. The trail went straight through there and onto a field turning back down the hillside to what looked to be the opposite direction. The trail we were looking for, should have connected near the stand of spruce trees turning back a hard right to run the ridge line out to Green Knob.
We meandered about quite a bit and it looked like we were going to have to crawl through the thickets to find it. We decided that was more than we really wanted to do, so we turned back toward the car. Upon further investigation, other hikers have noted that they too had to blaze their own trail just sticking to the ridge line. There must not have been enough traffic over the years to keep this trail tramped down.