Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cabin Flats Trail

For our first hike in the Oconaluftee area, we chose Cabin Flats Trail.  This is a sweet little 1.1 mile one way trail that goes up to backcountry campsite 49 on the banks of Bradley Creek.  The real problem with Cabin Flats Trail is that the trailhead is 4 miles from the road.  So our sweet little out and back hike ended up being 9.2 miles.
Found this showy orchis among the phlox and geranium
Our hike began on Bradley Fork Trail at the back of the Smokemont campground.  It’s early in the season and this campground is not fully open yet.  There is a small parking area for hikers near the trailhead, but that loop is still closed.  We had to walk several minutes to get to the trailhead.  When that loop is open, not only is there parking, there is also a restroom nearby.
Bradley Fork Trail
Bradley Fork Trail is a delight.  It is a wide gravel road which follows Bradley Fork all the way to Cabin Flats Trail.  This is a popular fishing area and there are numerous paths from the main trail down to the creek.  There are also several benches along the trail.  We utilized one of these benches for our lunch spot.
A side creek
Bradley Fork Trail is open for horse use so you have to watch your step, but the trail is in good condition without a lot of mud holes.  In fact, some of the worst spots had been recently repaired with what looked like several loads of gravel.

The bridge on Smokemont Loop Trail is still broken in the middle
Perhaps the best part about Bradley Fork Trail besides its scenic beauty, is that it is almost flat.  At least as flat as any trail gets in the Smokies.  Over the first 4 miles, it only gains about 800 feet.

Our hike crossed Bradley Fork and a couple of side creeks, but all crossings were on foot bridges.  One was on an impressive trestle bridge.  This area escaped the logging industry and the bridge seemed too narrow even for old cars.  We’re not sure what the bridge was originally used for.
Unnamed Falls
At the trail junction for Cabin Flats Trail, Bradley Fork Trail veers off sharply to the right and begins it ascent to Hughes Ridge.  Glad I wasn’t hiking up there today.  We continued straight and almost immediately stepped on to the trestle bridge crossing Bradley Fork and continued our hike on the opposite bank.

Cabin Flats Trail isn’t quite as flat as Bradley Fork, but almost with only a slight rise before dropping back down to creek level again at campsite 49.  The trail ends here at this beautiful campsite next to the creek nestled in amongst the rhododendron.

This was a great place for our coffee break.  Well, Gene had coffee; I had hot chocolate. Anything hot would do--I was freezing to death.  It was a cold, blustery morning and we hadn’t been on the trail very many minutes before it started to sleet.  That lasted for an hour or so then it started to snow.  We had sleet or snow all the way to campsite 49.  While we sat on a log drinking our hot beverage, the sun finally started to peek out through a few holes in the clouds.
Yes, that's snow on the rhododendron
We retraced our steps for the return trip stopping at one of those benches on Bradley Fork Trail for a lunch break.
Unnamed falls
It was a beautiful hike with all that rushing water.  We even saw a couple unnamed water falls; actually they were more like cascades.  There were still a few spring wildflower out--mostly phlox, wild geranium, and a few iris.  We saw some trillium, but it was beyond the flowering stage.  I just wish it had been a little bit warmer and less windy.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos of another great hike. Dressed up in jackets and gloves it sure looked cold!