As I suspected would happen upon moving to Western North Carolina, my hiking is starting to get ahead of my blogging. I hiked this trail the last day of May, and want to return soon.
The Pink Beds Trail is in “The Cradle of Forestry in America,” not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The name is derived from the fact that there are many mountain laurel and rhododendron plants here, which, when in full bloom, make the trail pink. I, however, prefer to think of it as the land of ferns.
My favorite thing about the trail is that it’s a 4.3-mile loop around a high-elevation valley, but with only a 500-foot elevation gain – so it’s a good one for a group with people of varying endurance and hiking experience. If you want to cut the loop short, there is another trail bisecting Pink Beds (Barnett Branch).
The trail passes through several different micro-ecosystems, the fern haven being the most picturesque. I’ve never seen so many ferns together in one place. It’s like the forest is carpeted with them and you can see into it for miles, it seems.
It also passes through mountain bogs, which are pretty rare from what I understand – and there are rare plants here: Swamp Pink, for one. Beavers have done some damage to the forest here by damming the river. You’ll also stay close to streams most of the way, which is refreshing and convenient if you have a dog for a companion (which I don’t, yet, but I’m thinking ahead for my future hound).
The Hike WNC web site, which provides an amazingly detailed description, a GPS map and directions, ranks this as one the best hikes in Western North Carolina. I plan to bring several friends on this trail later this summer when they visit me. If you are reading this and you want to go, just let me know. From where I’m living, I can actually drive to it along the parkway at elevation without going through town!
Distance traveled: 4.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy with some roots and water crossings
Flora of note: tall pines, oak, tulip poplar, rhododendron, mountain laurel, ferns
Some photos by Nate Miller
Oh, and a bonus, just after you turn right out of the Pink Beds Trail parking lot, there is a cool gravel road (Mills River) on your right that you can explore before heading back up to the parkway. One section along it has very tall older pines planted in perfect rows (shown above).