A hiking trail guide to a wonderful trail in DuPont State Forest. A quiet pine grove and a couple of nice streams grace the Buckhorn Creek Road Trail.
This trail is not immediately accessible from a road. It must be accessed from one of two other trails: Cannon Creek Trail or Rock Quarry Road Trail. Cannon Creek Trail is slightly longer. I give both ways to access the trail, beginning with Cannon Creek Trail. Note that some might prefer to connect from Rich Mountain Road to Cascade Lake Road by connecting all of Cannon Creek Trail with all or part of Buckhorn Creek Road Trail with part of Rock Quarry Road Trail. As one end of Cannon Creek Trail ends at Buckhorn Creek Road Trail, the access following is to the other end of that trail.
There are two ways to access the Cannon Creek Trail, both from U.S. 276; one near Brevard, N.C. and the other in Cedar Mountain, N.C.
Near Brevard, N.C.: Take U.S. Highway 276. Turn onto Becky Mountain Road. Travel .10 and turn left onto Rich Mountain Road. Travel 4.8 miles total; the road will turn to gravel at 2.9 miles, continue as gravel for 1.9 miles, then pavement will resume at 4.6 miles with the trail approximately .9 miles further. The trail will be on the left at a small parking area with a trail sign.
From Cedar Mountain, N.C.: Take U.S. Highway 276. Turn onto Rich Mountain Road. Travel 1.8 miles to the trail. The trail is on the right. There is a regular parking area and trail sign.
Note: the gravelled portion of Rich Mountain Road is nothing short of spectacular for long range views and pastoral beauty. I heartily recommend taking the gravelled portion on the drive in or out.
View up Buckhorn Creek Road Trail. Photo by Bret James Stewart.
Blaze Markings: unblazed
Length: approximately 1.31 miles (approximately 2.6 miles there and back as the trail does not end at an accessible location; see below); exactly 6937 feet; the DuPont State Forest trail map published by Friends of Dupont Forest (rev. 2008) portrays the length at 1.36 miles, which is very close. The trail ends at a T junction with Buckhorn Creek Road Trail.
Cannon Creek Trail Difficulty: moderate; due to elevation change
The second way to access Buckhorn Creek Road Trail is to hike a portion of Rock Quarry Road Trail to the beginning of Buckhorn Creek Road Trail. Rock Quarry Road Trail is accessible from Cascade Lake Road. Please see that trail for driving directions.
The Buckhorn Creek Road Trail begins at the intersection of Rock Quarry Road Trail, Buck Ridge Road Trail, and Buckhorn Creek Road Trail. The intersection is four-way, but Rock Quarry Road Trail is two of the choices.
Blaze Markings: unblazed
Length: approximately 1.1 mile; exactly 5948 feet; the portion of the trail from the junction with Cannon Creek Trail (4080’) to the end has to be hiked out and back as there is no way to loop that portion of the trail, so that the minimum time spent on Buckhorn Creek Road Trail is 7816’ (1.5 miles), not counting the trail used to access the B.C.R. Trail.
Difficulty: moderate; due to elevation change.
Buckhorn Creek Road Trail is an interesting trail named for the namesake creek it crosses. The path dips down into the valley, then meanders back up the other side to the southwestern edge of the DuPont State Forest Property. The portion of the trail beyond the junction with Cannon Creek Trail is much less travelled than the rest.
I hiked this trail in October. It is a mellow trail with a beautiful creek, a nice mixture of wood, field, and in-between, with a spectacular pine grove near the centre of the way.
Buckhorn Creek begins northwest of the four way intersection, and soon forks, with one fork travelling westward out of the Forest and the other travelling across the trail and southward out of the Forest. I am not sure what sort of “buck” the creek is named after. The most common sort of buck is the white-tailed deer, but the previous bucks of buffalo and elk were in the area long enough to give their names to landmarks, so it possible one of these larger creatures is the namesake.
The trail starts downhill immediately and remains so for about a quarter of a mile.
At 1387’, a small stream passes under the path. The galax-strewn banks are a dead giveaway, though water is visible from the trail.
At 2567’, the namesake creek crosses the trail. There are rock stepping stones which the hiker should be careful crossing as they are not particularly steady.
At 2668’, a grassy road forks off of the trail and into the pine grove; remain straight; the trail also goes into the pine grove, which begins here as a more mixed wood than it quickly becomes; the pine grove continues until the junction with Cannon Creek Trail at 4080’. What is more enchanted than a pine grove? The quiet contemplative trees, the soft pine needles hush the surrounding forest, and the scent of pine is woodsy and refreshing. When I was here, the pine needles were falling (pines drop some needles in autumn) and the yellows and brown mixed with the overcast sky to create a surreal understory stepping out of a fantasy tale. I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if Robin Goodfellow stopped me and invited me to a dance in the glade.
At 3400’, a wet-weather spring, also marked with galax, passes beneath the path.
At 4080’, a trail sign for Cannon Creek Trail marks the junction of the two trails; continue straight; the trail narrows and is much more overgrown than the previous section; the pine grove ends (alas).
At 4620’, a wet-weather creek crosses the trail; it was dry this time, but I have crossed it when it was two or three feet across.
At 4871’, the first of several (wet-weather?) springs dampen the path; they continue for approx. 100 feet.
At 5523’, a spring bubbles out of the ground and drips from the rocks simultaneously and almost immediately crosses the path.
At 5684’, a confusing fork divides the trail; take the left fork; the right fork continues for a short distance before fading out altogether.
At 5948’, the trail ends at the boundary of DuPont State Forest along someone’s backyard; a blue-tipped iron stob and a sign and yellow blaze indicate this transition, though it is easy to see because the trail ends at a pasture-like area with houses on the other side.
Photo by Bret James Stewart.
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