The infamously steep trail leading up to Blackrock from Pinnacle Park will soon find itself with a gentler incline following the planned reroute of 0.37 miles of the most severely angled piece of the pathway.
High-elevation overlooks are one of our finest natural resources. These vantage points allow us to rise above our everyday humdrum existence and see the world with fresh eyes. Many of the finest overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Great Smokies, and elsewhere can be reached directly via motor vehicles.
The snip of a ribbon declared the destination that mountain bikers are hailing as “amazing” and “world-class” to be open for business last week, when Cherokee officially opened its new 10.5-mile Fire Mountain Trail System.
“There’s been a lot of hard work and dedication to make this a reality, to make this trail system a reality — and the reality we’ve created is a premier trail system for the region,” said Jeremy Hyatt, secretary of administration for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Rainbow Falls Trail: The Rainbow Falls Trail is the next trail in line to get a complete rehabilitation through the Smokies Trails Forever program, funded by Friends of the Smokies.
Dealing with the aftermath of two major storms while preparing for what could be another record-breaking visitor season, trail crews in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been keeping busy this spring.
“Three major projects are taking place in addition to the normal routine spring cleaning that our crews do, along with storm damage that we’ve had from several different wind events,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.
My pack was plenty heavy as I set out north on the Appalachian Trial from Carvers Gap, but with my phone on airplane mode and three days in the woods ahead of me, my steps felt light. The sun was warm and bright as a friend and I climbed those initial balds, my dog running joyful circles through the grass. The trail soon gave way to still-bare forests whose floors were alive with wildflowers, the sinking sun casting an enchanting glow over the whole scene.
When Ed Sutton first came to Cherokee in November to break ground on a new trail system, his directive was clear.
“We told him his marching orders were just make it great. Make it awesome,” said Jeremy Hyatt, Secretary of Administration for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
When starting the hike, it’s not immediately obvious why the Chimney Tops Trail should be appointed for long-term closure. The brook is babbling, the sun is shining and the trees are towering just as one would expect of a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the results of a recent trail rehabilitation effort make for exceedingly pleasant walking.
But as the trail nears its terminus at the twin peaks of the Chimney Tops, the reason becomes abundantly clear. Its harbingers are announced with a jumble of burned branches here, an area of blackened ground there, and the sudden realization that, even on a brisk winter day when it’s hard to smell much at all, there’s a faint odor of charcoal in the air.
It’s a miraculously warm, blue-skied November day, the iconic Alum Cave Trail stretching smoothly from the trailhead.
The trail invites, almost audibly, framed by a mosaic of rhododendron, leafless deciduous trees and towering hemlocks that have thus far resisted the onslaught of the hemlock wooly adelgid. Tightly constructed wooden bridges and steps interject the trail’s leaf-and-dirt flooring, a stone drainage here and there waiting, shrouded with ferns, to siphon runoff from the trail when the drought finally ends.
For the past decade, Sylva’s Pinnacle Park has had Sae Smyrl envisioning a lofty future for the hiking area. A mountain biker for the past 40 years, Smyrl would walk the trail and think how great it would be to ride his bike through the 1,100-acre forest. Bikes are allowed on the existing trail, but it’s way too steep for the sport to be fun.
A plan is now afoot to make Smyrl’s dream a reality, with the Nantahala Area Southern Off Road Bicycling Association pursuing a goal to bring some 30 miles of biking trail, featuring loops of various difficulty levels, to the Fisher Creek watershed.