Recommended hikes: July 2012
All five of these hikes are new — to the “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”/”Backpacking North Carolina” family. Three of the trails — at Jockey’s Ridge, Raven Rock and West Point on the Eno — we’ve hiked but haven’t written much about. Both mountain hikes are The Nature Conservancy properties that are on our list. Maybe this month?
Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Tracks in the Sand, 1.5 miles; Soundside Nature Trail, 1.0 Yet another good reason to head to the coast this summer. Tracks in the Sand is a 1.5-mile trail on the dunes, pieced together by 14 station markers. Talk about a workout: Walking in sand up dunes reaching 85 feet! (Shoes are advised: the temperature of the sand can be 30 degrees higher than the air temp.) Then, escape the maddening beach crowds and hit the Soundside Trail, which takes you over grassy dunes, through a maritime thicket and over a wetland. Scenic variety that demands a camera. More information about the trails and the park, here.
West Point on the Eno City Park, Durham, 5 miles of trail. July makes me think of Festival for the Eno (July 4, 7, 8) which makes me think of the unsung trails at West Point on the Eno City Park, the festival’s home. The South River Trail and Sennett Hole Trail both follow the Eno River’s south bank, the nearly 2-mile (one way) Eagle Trail traces the north bank — and has a tantalizing encounter with the Eno’s Sennett Hole, one of the best swimming holes in the Triangle. Nothing like interrupting a sizzling summer hike with a dip down to the cooling thermocline of this natural swimming hole. More on the park here.
Raven Rock State Park, Lillington, various loops, followed by 0.6-mile Fish Traps Trail. Go long at Raven Rock on the 5-mile Campbell Creek Loop Trail, go shorter with the 2.6-mile loop to Raven Rock, but finish with the 0.6-mile hike out to the old fish traps used by the Siouan and Tuscarora tribes who used this section of the river to catch fish. Exposed rock out into the Cape Fear River makes for some great spots to cool off. More in the park and trails here.
Bluff Mountain, Ashe County. We’ll let The Nature Conservancy sell you on this 1,973-acre preserve: “Although relatively small in size, Bluff is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast. Hiking on Bluff, in just a few dozen steps you can walk from a Carolina hemlock forest to a dwarf red oak/white oak forest to a rare flat rock plant community. A broad, high plateau containing an unusual wetland, a southern Appalachian fen, adds to Bluff's unique character.” Access is through scheduled field trips or by appointment through guide Kim Hadley at BluffMountainPreserve@gmail.com. More on Bluff Mountain here.
Plott Balsams Preserve, Jackson County. Another The Nature Conservancy property, this one 1,595 acres on the far western end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, between Sylva and Waynesville. Elevations range from 2,100 to 6,000 feet, at Yellow Face and Waterrock, in less than 8 miles. At the highest elevations you’ll find spruce-fir forest and some old-growth forest. More info here.