THIS IS NOT A FREE PARKING DAY!!! We will also hike this loop at a pretty fast pace (close to 3 mph) in order to be done before dark (sunset at 7:34 pm). This hike is really more for exercise, rather than a leisurely evening stroll like the free first Tuesday Arboretum hike. Please do not sign up if you feel that you can't keep up.
Meet at: Gatehouse Parking, just inside the Main Entrance Gate to the Arboretum (off Hwy 191), and to the LEFT. You will need an Arboretum pass ($45.00 per year) or be willing to pay $8.00 per car for parking.
Alternate (free) parking #1: Bent Creek River Park, about 0.1 mile south of the Arboretum entrance on Hwy 191 and across the road from the Arboretum. Park and walk north on the side of Hwy 191, then cross 191 and walk into the Arboretum past the gate, and the Gatehouse parking lot is on your left. Total walk, about 2/10 of a mile.
Alternate (free) parking #2: French Broad River Overlook (MP 393.7) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Park and walk down the hill, leaving the Parkway at the Hwy 191 exit, continue down the hill. At the base of the hill, the Arboretum entrance is on your left, walk in past the gate, and the Gatehouse parking lot is on your left. Total walk, about 2/10 of a mile.
Alternate (free) parking #3: There are a few spots along the road leading from the Arboretum/Hwy 191 to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Park and walk down the hill and enter the Arboretum entrance as stated above for #2.
Meetup Time: 6:00 pm, meet and introductions, depart promptly at 6:10 pm for the trails.
Hike Length: 4.6 miles, approximate. We should be done by 7:30, 7:45 pm at the latest.
Hike Rating: Moderate overall, with some difficult uphill climbing. We'll only stop at trail intersections if people are falling behind. Please try to stay with the group!
Hike Description: Up Hard Times Trail for 0.8 mile, then across on the Owl Ridge Trail for 0.9 mile, down Rocky Cove Road for 0.5 mile, left on Bent Creek Road for 0.3 mile, then up the Carolina Mountain Trail for 1.2 mile to the visitor center. Then across the parking lot for 0.2 mile and down Wesley Branch Road for 0.4. Finally, return to Gatehouse Parking by Old Mill Trail, 0.3 mile.
What to Bring: Appropriate clothing for the weather, hiking boots or good walking shoes, water, trail snacks (optional). While the Arboretum maintains its trails pretty well, there may be some wet or muddy spots. Also bring a small flashlight, just in case.
Dogs? -- DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH (Arboretum Rules)
What if it rains? If it rains, you will get wet. Bring appropriate rain gear if rain is forecast.
See you on the trails,
Sammy [masked] texts preferred