Hiking in Elizabethton/Carter County offers one of the best ways to experience the forest. Choose from challenging hikes through rugged primitive areas to short walks along lake shores or select to explore a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail. No permits or formal check-in required in the backcountry, but it is always wise to tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you expect to return.
Appalachian Trail Trailheads:
About the Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian Trail (AT) is the world's longest scenic footpath that crosses the Appalachian Mountain ridgeline from Georgia to Maine. The trail was designed, constructed, and marked in the 1920's and 1930's by volunteer hiking clubs. Under the leadership of Myron H. Avery the Appalachian Trial Conference chairman, various hiking clubs and federal agencies, states and other groups combined forces to contruct and piece together all sections of The Appalachian Trail. It is a one-of-a-kind park that runs 2,155 miles.
Trail markers- The Appalachian Trail is marked by two-inch veritcal white paint swatches. Blue blazes mark side trails off the AT. These usually lead to shelters, water supplies or special overlooks.
You may head North toward the spectacular balds where, on a clear day, you can see into NC and VA. Otherwise you may walk South on the trail toward Roan High Knob-elev. 6,285 feet.
Directions - Take Hwy 19E South from Elizabethton 15 miles to the town of Roan Mountain. Turn right on Hwy 143 and continue for several miles past the park to the top of the mountain. You will see the parking area on the right. The AT crosses the road here.
Garden Trails & Cloudland Trail
The Cloudland Trail is a moderate 1.2 mile hike from the end of the Cloudland parking area to Roan High Bluff Overlook.
Directions - From Carver's Gap you can continue up the mountain toward the Rhododendron Gardens where you may choose between a short 0.3 mile loop or a longer, figure-8 loop.
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Hwy 19E to Hampton, then turn left onto Hwy 321/67 toward Mtn. City/Boone and continue up the mountain for 4 miles to trailhead on left.
Jones Branch Falls
Jones Branch Falls
The falls can be accessed from the AT road crossing at Walnut Mountain Road or a trail south from Campbell Hollow Road. Access from the NC side can be made form the Big Elk Falls parking lot in Elk Park, NC, and following the USFS road or the trail along Elk River.
Shook Branch (Watauga Lake)
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Hwy 19E/321 to Hampton, then turn left onto Hwy 321/67 toward Mtn. City/Boone and continue for 3.2 miles; picnic tables, grills, designated swimming areas, restrooms and trailhead for the Appalachian Trail; Open mid-April through late September.
Watauga Dam (Watauga Lake)
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Hwy 91 toward Shady Valley, continue for approximately 4 miles and turn right onto Blue Springs Rd. When Blue Springs curves sharply to the left (approx. 1 mi.), go straight onto Steel Bridge Rd. After 0.8 miles, turn right and go across the Steel Bridge, then follow signs to Wilbur and Watauga Dams; picnic tables, restrooms, short walk to view of dam and "morning glory" valve.
Blue Hole Falls
Short, moderate trail, featuring 70 foot waterfalls in two tiers.
Directions - 10 miles north of Elizabethton off Hwy 91, Panhandle Rd.
Laurel Fork Falls
This trail runs .96 miles to the Appalachian Trail. 1.67 additional miles to Laurel Falls for a total of approx. 2.5 miles. This moderately difficult trail begins at the Laurel Falls trailhead in Hampton, TN (above). It is a popular spur trail to the AT which leads to Laurel Falls within the Pond Mountain Wilderness Area.
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Hwy 19E/321 to Hampton, then turn left onto Hwy 321/67 toward Mtn. City/Boone and continue for 1.3 miles to the trailhead on right. Follow foot trail 2.5 miles to falls.
Little Milligan Trail
The loop foot trail begins and ends at Little Milligan Boat Ramp approx. 1.90 miles. The trail is on a gentle grade and passes through several wildlife plantings. The trail lies both above and below FS Road 6030 and crosses FS Road near the gate. The Forest Service has rated this trail as moderate.
Directions - From Hampton, travel east on Hwy 67/321 for 9.5 miles until the routes separate. Continue on Highway 321 for two miles. Take the second road to the left past the Milligan School, continue 1.0 miles to the sign for the Little Milligan Boat Ramp. Turn right onto gravel FS Road 6030 to parking area at Little Milligan Boat Ramp. The gate on FS Road 6030 may be closed in freeze-thaw conditions.
Lacy Trap Trail
This trail connects Laurel Fork Trail to the Appalachian Trail on White Rock Mountain. This is a moderately difficult trail that stretches 2.72 miles.
Directions - From Hampton, take Forest Development Road #50 for seven mile (FS road 50F). Follow 50F to dead end at Frog Level. Follow Laurel Fork Trail.
Coon Den Falls Trail
This moderately difficult trail was initially part of the Appalachian Trail. It leads from FDR #50 in Dennis Cove past Coon Den Falls and connects the current Appalachian Trail on White Rock Mountain. This trail is steep and features Coon Den Falls.
Directions- From Hampton take FDR #50 (See Above) for four miles. No developed trailhead at intersection. Parking is available at Dennis Cove Recreation Area.
Little Pond Mountain Trail
This foot trail begins on Highway 67/321, entering Pond Mountain Wilderness at the powerline crossing. Portions of this trail are steep and rocky. The trail follows the ridgetop crossing FS Road 6034 at Maple Springs Gap, continuing thru Plot Gap and dropping off of the ridge, ending on FS Road 6031 approx. 0.6 miles southwest of Hwy 321. Wildfires have left many hazardous trees along the northern portion of this trail. Trail is maintained to minimal standards to prevent resource damage.
Directions - From Hampton, take Hwy 67/321 east for 6 miles. Trailhead is on the South side of the Highway 67/321 approximately 0.5 miles of Watauga Point Recreation Area. Roadside parking available on north side of highway. On the Unaka Ranger District, access is on Dennis Cove Road.
Watauga Point Recreation Area
Watauga Point Trail - This foot trail contours above the shoreline of Watauga Lake, loops and returns to parking area. This trail offers some great views of Watauga Lake. Trail surface is gravel. Trail runs .41 miles.
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Hwy 19E/321 to Hampton, then turn left onto Hwy 321/67 toward Mtn. City/Boone and continue for 3.2 miles; picnic tables, grills, designated swimming area, restrooms and trailhead for the Appalachian Trail; Open mid-April through late September.
Cardens Bluff Trail
This foot trail follows along above shoreline of Watauga Lake for about half the length of the campground, ending at the restrooms. Bird watching and the scenic lake backdrop are some of the features of this trail. It runs approx. .69 miles.
Directions - From Hampton take Hwy 67/321 for four miles to Cardens Bluff Campground. Follow road 350 feet to trailhead on right side of the road.
Upper Stoney Creek Trail
This trail is moderate to difficult and is 2.54 miles long. This foot trail follows Upper Stoney Creek, then climbs Old Road Ridge and ends at the intersection with the Appalachian Trail south of Double Springs Shelter. Numerous creek crossings may be difficult during periods of high water (Spring). Trail is not formally maintained, and should be considered challenging.
Directions - From Elizabethton, take Highway 91 North for 19 miles to the foot of Cross Mountain. Trailhead is on left side of road, just inside the Forest Service boundary. (Limited Parking)
Opt Outside Tour/Hiking Guide
If you are interested in small to private customized tours of natural and historical highlights of the southern Appalachian Highlands and if you want first-hand experience of some of our cultural niches, you may want to hook up with local tour/hiking guide and adventure planner, Beth McPherson. For more information and list of activities vailable please check out our site at www.optoutside.com