Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fork Ridge Trail

Monday’s hike was along the Fork Ridge Trail which is a 5-mile section of the Mountains to the Sea Trail.  Our hike started high (nearly 6000 feet) on Clingman’s Dome Road.  Our goal was to descend Fork Ridge to Deep Creek then retrace our steps back up the mountain to the car; a total distance of 10.2 miles and a 3,000 foot loss and gain.  This trail lends itself well to a car shuttle--going down Fork Ridge and out via Deep Creek Trail to Newfound Gap Road.  We didn’t have that option so it was in and out for us.  At least we didn’t have to cross Deep Creek.

Our one good view along the trail
The trailhead is on Clingman’s Dome Road just across the road from the Appalachian Trail.  The parking for both these trails is a really a couple of small pullouts which will accommodate five or six cars.

Our hike started in the Spruce-Fir forest.  Have I mentioned that I love the high elevation areas of the park?  There is something about this cool, damp, mossy, dark forest that immediately soothes my soul.  The long song of the winter wren accompanied us as we began our descent.  We were also excited to see bluebead lily in bloom with it’s yellowish green flower before the blue bead forms.

Bluebead Lily
After the first couple miles we left the fir forest and entered the hardwoods and the blackberry patch.  For a half mile or so, the blackberry brambles were so thick I felt like I was bushwhacking rather than hiking a maintained trial.  Today we bear the scratches of all those thorns.  I was definitely glad to have my trekking poles to help push them to the side.


The spring wildflowers are all but gone.  To take their place in offering color to the forest are the rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea.  We saw a few rhododendron bushes in bloom, but their not quite ready yet.  The mountain laurel is just gorgeous at the lower elevations.  The azalea are just past their prime, but we were excited to find this yellow azalea just about at peak performance.  On the forest floor, we saw lots of galax in bloom.

We were both ready for a long lunch break by the time we reached Deep Creek.  Sometime in the past, there was a footbridge across this wide creek.  There is no evidence of any bridge today.  I’m glad we didn’t need to cross the creek--it would have been a wet crossing for sure and wider and deeper than Enloe Creek.  Perhaps later in the summer after the spring rains have had a chance to run off there might be a rock hop across, but not today.  The water looked to be about knee deep on the Fork Ridge side.

Deep Creek
We sat on the rocks by the creek and enjoyed our lunch break.  Then it was back up the mountain, through the blackberry brambles, to the car we went.  We were both pretty tired at the end of the day, but it was a beautiful hike and one we enjoyed very much (all except for the blackberries).

That all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. That creek reminds of ones I saw as a child - and always loved. There is just something about a creek tumbling over the rocks that is music to my ears. On a hot summer day, there is nothing I liked better than wading in a cool, clear creek. Probably fall on my carbonza if I tried it now!!

    1. I love the creeks in the Smokies and the high alpine lakes in the western mountains. They are great places to be. I remember falling in the creek quite a bit as a child and I still take a tumble ever so often. It hurts so much more now than then.

  2. I'm thinking 10.2 miles with that elevation gain is a 'fair walk in the woods'. We'd be totally exhausted after that for sure. Thanks for posting the beautiful photos!

  3. Have either of you every come upon a bear in the Smokies while hiking on any trails?

    1. We were just talking about this today. We've been here since March and haven't seen a single bear. However, that's very unusual. Over the years, we've seen lots of bears in the park. According to the park website, there are about 1500 black bears living in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.