Pull on Your Boots & Hike!
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
- John Muir
Take a hike in the woods and leave the sounds of the city, the noise and the traffic, the stress of everyday life behind. Here in the forests, hills and mountains surrounding Hayesville and Clay County, we are blessed with miles and miles of uncrowded, unspoiled trails. Pick one and follow it up a mountain, along a rushing stream, beside a flowing waterfall, or high up to a vista that will take your breath away. Trails of all lengths and intensities abound—from a strenuous climb to the top of Siler Bald with breathtaking views of three states to an easy lakefront stroll along the Chatuge Dam trail just outside of town. And did you know that a large part of the movie “A Walk in the Woods” was filmed right here in our little corner of the mountains? But you don’t have to rough it like Robert Redford and his trail buddy did…after a long day’s hike in the woods, you can come and enjoy a peaceful night in a log cabin, a cozy B&B or one of the many other overnight lodging accommodations we have here in Clay County. So go on, pull on your boots and hit the trail!
The Appalachian Trail runs for 95.7 miles in North Carolina, but the Trail runs along the Tennessee/North Carolina border for 224.7 additional miles. As the A.T. ascends to the High Country of the state line, hikers traverse the highest mountains along the Trail, including several above 6,000 feet. Sections of the trail are perfect for day hikes, with elevations ranging from 1725 to 5498 ft and difficulty levels ranging from easy to challenging. A popular favorite is the hike that takes you along the Appalachian Trail to the top of Silver Bald.
Follow the Trail! Hike or bike along the area’s 15-mile stacked-loop system. Many of the trails border Lake Chatuge, while others meander through the woods or ridge-top. These trails appeal to hikers and riders of all skill levels. For a family-friendly hike, try the Jackrabbit Mountain Trail. With a trailhead just outside the campground, this 2.4-mile easy trail loops through open woods and offers glimpses of Lake Chatuge.
Popular with families, joggers, dog-walkers and simply those out for a evening stroll to catch the sunset, the Chatuge Dam Trail is a 4-mile out-and-back, mostly level and fully paved trail that is good for families with small children in strollers or for those needing an even surface under their feet. The trail crosses over TVA’s Chatuge Dam and offers fantastic views of Chatuge Lake and the surrounding mountains. Once across the dam, the trail finds shade as it meanders through stands of trees beside a campground. The trail is open to walkers, hikers, bikers, and runners. It can be accessed from Clay County Park or Chatuge Dam Road.
In the Fires Creek Recreation area, you’ll find the popular 25-mile Rim Trail. The Rim Trail follows the ridge around Fires Creek Wildlife Management Area. The trail, marked with blue blazes, has several access roads and trails. If you’re looking to sleep in the woods for a night or two, the Rim Trail has several camping sites dispersed along the trail for backpackers. For day hikers, start at the Fires Creek Picnic Area and hike along the Leatherwood Loop Trail. On this unspoiled trail, you’ll see rhododendron and spring wildflowers, such as trillium, lady slipper, and Solomon’s seal. Grouse, warblers, deer, bear, Russian boar and hawks roam the area. Other trails in the Fires Creek area are Chunky Gal and Bald Springs.
Leatherwood Loop Trail: 3.5 miles – Difficulty: Moderate
Average hiking time: 3 hours
Features: The trail begins at Fires Creek Picnic Area and follows Leatherwood Branch up to the ridge top. At this point, trail connects with the original Rim Trail. The trail also loops back into Fires Creek Picnic Area.
The Boogerman Trail is a moderately challenging 7.4 mile loop hike with a climb of approximately 800 ft. to an altitude of 3,600 ft. On the hike, you’ll travel through old growth forest, picturesque streams and falls, and the remains of Mr. Boogerman’s early homestead. Plan on roughly three hours, depending on your skill level. The trailhead is in the Cataloochee section on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, not far from the town of Waynesville. If you enjoy hiking, this trail is well worth the effort as you’ll enjoy a walk in the woods that put you in the midst of huge trees, cascading streams and waterfalls — a great trail to hike!