Wear your good shoes for this hike. It is challenging, but worth the extra effort as it is mostly across a beautiful granite dome rock face.
View from the crest of Cedar Rock
photo by Bret James Stewart
Cedar Rock Trail is accessible from Little River Trail, which is accessed from Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail. There are two junctions with Little River Trail, with both ends of Cedar Rock Trail connecting to it. Thus, this review must include the relevant portions of both the Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail and Little River Trail. I chose to begin the trail with the second junction so that Little River Trail can be hiked virtually in its entirely. I am measuring Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail from the Corn Mill Shoals Access Area (parking area) off Cascade Lake Road. The Access Area features ample parking and a kiosk with a rather outdated map.
Directions to Corn Mill Shoals Access Area:
There are three ways to access the parking area: one from U.S. 276 in Cedar Mountain, N.C. and the other two from Crab Creek Road. The two from Crab Creek Road are DuPont/Staton Road and Cascade Lake Road. The former should be chosen by those wanting ease and speed; the latter should be chosen if you want to drive a slower gravel road with less ease and more scenery.
From Cedar Mountain, N.C.: Take U.S. Highway 276. Turn onto Cascade Lake Road. Drive 1.8 miles to Corn Mill Shoals Access Area on the left. There is a large parking area.
DuPont Road from Crab Creek Road: Take Crab Creek Road (this road is also known as Kanuga Road in Henderson County should you be coming from Hendersonville). Turn onto DuPont Road. Travel 1.2 miles. DuPont Road ends and Staton Road begins (i.e. DuPont Road becomes Staton Road—this change is due to the road crossing the county line between Henderson and Transylvania Counties). At 5.4 miles, turn left onto Cascade Lake Road. Travel .7 miles to Corn Mill Access Area on the right. This route is considered the primary route.
Cascade Lake Road from Crab Creek Road: Take Crab Creek Road (this road is also known as Kanuga Road in Henderson County should you be coming from Hendersonville). Turn onto Cascade Lake Road. Travel 1.2 miles. The road turns at a confusing junction with Hart Road. Hart Road is paved and goes to the right. Cascade Lake turns to gravel at this point and goes to the left. Remain on Cascade Lake Road. Travel 5 miles; this portion of the road is graveled. Note the nice waterfall at mile 3.0. At the 5 mile mark, the road turns into pavement. Travel .9 miles. Corn Mill Shoals Access Area is on the right. This route is the secondary route and takes significantly longer to travel. It is less than two vehicles wide most of the way, so take your time and be aware. I would not recommend this route except for the interesting features along the way (and, hey, I just like gravel roads), including Cascade Lake itself, lots of forest, and the waterfall mentioned above.
Blaze Markings: unblazed
Length: approximately 1.5 miles; exactly 7981’; note this varies slightly from the length of 1.43 miles given by the Friends of DuPont Forest Trail Map (rev. 2008); also note that 3907’ of Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail and 6024’ of the Little River Trail must be hiked to access the trail; therefore, the total one way distance is 17,912’ or 3.4 miles; the hike back involves an additional backtracking of 2807’ for the Little River Trail and 3907’ for the Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail for an effective total distance of 24,626’ or 4.7 miles there and back.
Difficulty: difficult; due to length, the necessity of hiking on rock, and slope.
View of the rock face--this is a beautiful place worth visiting again and again
photo by Bret James Stewart
This is a great hike with lots of the rock faces DuPont is revered for. This hike also includes all but a few feet of the Little River Trail; hike this bit and you have a two-fer, which is also a great reason to hike the trail. Big Rock Trail also connects with this trail should you want an alternate way in or out. As I mentioned above, I am considering the second junction with Little River Trail to be the beginning point. Reverse these directions if you want to go in the opposite direction. This hike is a partial loop by default as both ends of Cedar Rock Trail connect with the Little River Trail.
I hiked this trail in July. It was hot and muggy, as the season warranted. I met some families with small children out enjoying the sun after a period of rain, but most of the trail traffic was mountain bikers out for the same reason.
The following trail directions begin with the Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail to the junction with the Little River Trail and from there to the second junction with Cedar Rock Trail and from thence to the end of Cedar Rock. I do not provide information for the hike out as it is the reverse of the relevant portions of the access trails.
The Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail portion:
Beginning at the edge of Cascade Lake Road:
At 134’, a creek crosses the trail just before a gate.
At 203’, there is a junction with Longside Trail to your left.
At 345’, a small creek tinkles down from the left to cross the trail.
At 563’, there is a junction with Big Rock Trail on the left.
At 2297’, the trail is damp from a (possibly wet-weather) spring. You can hear the Little River from this point to the river itself (and beyond for a distance, of course).
At 2623’, the wet trail ends, and Tom Creek flows underneath the trail.
At 2948’, notice the interesting rock formation on the right.
At 3775’, there is a junction with Burnt Mountain Trail on the right.
At 3907’, a Y-junction with the Little River Trail occurs. Take the left fork to the Little River Trail. You can hear the Little River roaring in the distance from this point.
The Little River Trail portion:
I began measuring again from this point as this is a separate trail
At 657’, a creek flows underneath the trail.
At 1056’, notice the large dying hemlock to the right surrounded by a nice bed of galax.
At 2206’, a log bridge over what I think is Tom Creek, the same larger creek you crossed at 2623’ on the Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail.
At 2275’, there is a rock face on the left.
At 2807’, there is a junction with Cedar Rock Trail.
At 3620’, a nice creek passes beneath the trail.
At 3940’, a stream over a rock face is emerald with algae, moss, laurel (Rhododendron maximum), ivybush (Kalmia latifolia), and galax. This was, to me, the coolest part of the hike except maybe for the Little River itself.
At 5393’, the river is to the right. It is calm and deep (for a mountain river) here.
At 5940’, a large spring surfaces on the left, flows across the trail, and into the river.
At 6024’, there is a second junction with Cedar Rock Trail. Take it (though I recommend finishing out Little River Trail first since it is only a short distance to the powerline cut which is the end of the trail).
photo by Bret James Stewart
Cedar Rock Trail:
I began measuring again from this point as this is a separate trail.
At 470’, an unofficial trail goes to the right. Stay straight.
At 636’, a spring from a double-springhead crosses the trail and spills off to the right.
At 790’, a small rock face graces the trail and hints at what’s to come.
At 961’, the powerline cut begins. This is confusing. At 991’, an unofficial trail to the right goes down to the river and the Little River Trail. You want to take the unmarked trail to the left about halfway across the cut. There is no sign and the trail is not evident here, but you can see it as it enters the wood, so look to the woodline. The rock face is the trail for about 800’. This further confuses the issue as it is not obvious you are on the trail until the end of the rock face. I assume this granite dome to be the eponymous Cedar Rock becaue it features lots of pine, it is large, and it has a somewhat cedar colour.
At 1865’, the rock face resumes. There are some views, but not as good as the ones still before you. The trail travels through pine and ivy bush (Kalmia latifolia) to another rock face beginning at 2961’ to 3158’. This occurs again from 3303’ to 3866’.
At 3866’, the trail forks. It is unclear which is the trail, so I took the left fork. It does not much matter as the two forks converge at 3965’.
From 3965’ until 5181’, the trail is on-and-off-again rock face.
At 4761’, there is a junction with Big Rock Trail to the right. This general portion of the trail is the crest of the rock and has the best long-range views.
At 5132’, the trail goes to the right. As with the first portion of the rock face, it is difficult to distinguish the trail as it is the rock face itself. People have put up stacked rock markers at particularly difficult turns. These are not official, but they are very helpful.
From 5409’ until 5573’, the trail is rock face.
At 5636’, the trail opens up at another rock face until 7411’. This occurs again from 7600’ to 7836’.
At 7981’, the trail ends at a junction with Little River Trail.
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