Hiking Trail Review
Jim Branch Trail
DuPont State Forest

This moderate length trail has something for everyone.

Jim Branch Trail in DuPont State Forest

What's around the bend?

photo by A. Scott Lavender

Varying terrain, slope, and a peaceful venue make every step of Jim Branch a treasure.  This trail connects Lake Imaging Road Trail and Buck Forest Road Trail.  For purposes of this review, I am considering the Lake Imaging end to be the beginning.  Thus, the trail incorporates the first segment of the Lake Imaging Trail starting at the Lake Imaging Access Area.


There are two ways to reach the access area: one from U.S. 276 in Cedar Mountain, N.C. and the other from Crab Creek Road.

From Cedar Mountain, N.C.:  Take U.S. Highway 276.  Turn onto Cascade Lake Road.  Drive 2.5 miles.  Turn right onto Staton Road.  Travel 2.8 miles.  Lake Imaging Access Area is on the right.  This is a medium-sized parking area.

DuPont Road from Crab Creek Road:  Take Crab Creek Road (this road is also known as Kanuga Road in Henderson County should one 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).  Travel 2.6 miles.  Turn left into Lake Imaging Access Area.  There is a medium-sized parking area.

Blaze Markings:  unblazed

Length:  approximately 1.3 miles (approximately 2.6 miles there and back as the trail does not end at an accessible location); exactly 7050 feet one way or 14,100 feet there and back.  An additional .3 miles or 1617 feet one way or .6 miles or 3234 feet there and back of the Lake Imaging Trail is necessary as the Jim Branch Trail does not end at an accessible location.  Thus, the total distance is 1.6 miles or 8667 feet one way and 3.2 miles or 17,334 feet there and back.  The trail itself matches the one way distance of 1.3 miles listed on the DuPont State Recreational Forest trail map published by the North Carolina Forest Service (rev. 2012).  It can be made into a loop by piecing together part of the Buck Forest Road Trail and the remainder of the Lake Imaging Road Trail.  Please see the trail map or the trail reviews on this site for more information.

Difficulty:  moderate; this is the official trail designation, and I agree with the assessment; even with the actual distance of 3.2 miles, it deserves the moderate designation.

photo by A. Scott Lavender

Jim Branch is a great moderate-distance trail with a nice mixture of what DuPont is known for:  rocks, trees, and old roadbed, alteration between slope and flat, and access to more than one trail.   Surprisingly, despite the name, there is no water crossing.  The understory is mostly clear, so there is a nice view of the forest around you.  The trail is situated primarily toward the top of the mountains but not actually on the ridges, which creates a beautiful “ridge and gap” forest type—my quote; not an official term—with views of the ridges above and/or beside you as you go and, because you are not atop the ridges, you can also see the gaps in their mini-valleys or “hollers” as we call them here.

Galax Blooms

photo by A. Scott Lavender

The Lake Imaging Road Trail portion:

I began measuring distance at the edge of the parking area. 

At 60’, the road is gated.

At 118’, there is a nice kiosk with an unfortunately outdated map.

At 365’, there is an unofficial trail to the left.  Keep straight.

At 413’, a decently-sized creek flows under the road.

At 853’, there is a junction with Ridgeline Trail to the left.

At 1179’, a horse tie-out is on the right.

At 1214’, Lake Imaging greets you.  A picnic shelter, a regular dock, and a partially covered dock are present.

At 1351’, the trail crosses a culvert for the stream feeding the lake.

At 1394’, a nice oak splits the trail.  Take either way.

At 1617’, there is a junction with Jim Branch Trail to the left.  Its superb rockwork is inviting.  Take it.

Morning sun dapples the trail

photo by A. Scott Lavender

The Jim Branch Trail:

I began measuring at the rocks at the trail junction.

From 0’-212’, rocks make for interesting companions.

At 1700’, notice the predominantly pine grove with decent-sized hemlocks with some ivy bush , moss, and ferns.

At 4226’, there are some nice rocks on the left.

At 4792’, the trail converges with an old roadbed and the two overlap.  The old road also goes to the left; bear right to remain on the trail.

At 5898’, an old roadbed to the left goes to an open area.  Stay straight (after you’ve probably checked out the opening).

At 6612’, there is a junction with the Isaac Heath Trail to the right.  Previously, this was an intersection with Isaac Heath continuing to the left, and the trail still seems borderline official.  This portion of I.H. was recently removed from the official designation, which is why it is a junction.  In any case, Jim Branch goes straight and proceeds downhill toward Buck Forest Road Trail.

At 7050’, the trail ends at a junction with Buck Forest Road Trail.

Rocks and rockwork are typical of DuPont's trails

photo by A. Scott Lavender

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