Confused about a term I use on Blue Ridge Hiker?  Below are the terms I use that are not necessarily self-explanatory.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these or if you would like a term added. 

I want to begin with a couple of general assumptions:

Driving Directions

I give driving directions in the introductions to the trails from the nearest major road.  By this, I mean a state-maintained road that is either numbered ( e.g. Highway 276) or is well-travelled and recognizable enough to warrant inclusion in this category (e.g. Crab Creek Road regarding DuPont State Forest) because it is a primary access to the location in question.  With GPS and road maps, I am assuming the average person should have no difficulty finding the road I use as the primary road(s) to the area.

Secondary roads will be included in the directions, of course, but I will not use them as the starting point for driving directions.  An example of this would be Avery Creek Road off of Highway 276 to access the Avery Creek Trail.  In this example, Highway 276 is the starting point.



I also want to mention perspective.  I clearly state where I accessed a given trail and provide distances and measurements from that starting point.  Some trails have no initial access (i.e. they are not accessible directly from a road or trailhead) and/or can be reached by various ways.  This flexibility is nice, but sometimes creates a situation wherein there is no official beginning of a trail.  An example of this is the Micajah Trail in DuPont State Forest.  Be aware of this, check my directions, and reverse them if you are hiking in the opposite direction.  Note that I do not begin a trail review other than at one end (i.e. if another trail connects somewhere within the trail, I will not use this junction as the starting point).



Alternate Trail:  This indicates an alternate path that remains part of the trail.  An alternate trail is most common with long distance trails such as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that are pieced together from multiple trails and, therefore, provide the hiker with more than one way to travel the trail.  Note that an alternate trail is part of the official trail, not merely a trail created by hikers and campers as “short cuts”—this is most common at switchbacks (q.v.) and campsites.

Bypass:  A bypass is a section of official trail that is designed to avoid something (as with a bypass on roads).  Sometimes this is to avoid popular and populated areas such as campgrounds, but is usually used to avoid difficult areas such as steep climbs (e.g. Cat Gap Bypass in the Pisgah Ranger District) or to allow the shortening of a lengthy trail.  Exercise caution here as popular trails may have a number of unofficial bypass or connector trails (q.v.) that are confusing and make finding the official trail difficult.

Connector Trail:  Although many trails somehow combine with another trail, the term Connector Trail refers to a trail that is designed solely to provide access to another trail or area.  An example of this is the Campground Connector Trail in the Pisgah Ranger District providing access between the Davidson River Campground and the North Slope Trail.  

Intersection:  This term and “junction” (q.v.) are sometimes used interchangeably, which causes confusion.  On this site, I use the term to refer to trails and/or roads that cross one another (i.e. they form at least a four way intersection).   Note the term can apply to only trails, only roads, or  a combination of both roads and trails.

Junction:  In contrast to an “intersection” (q.v.), a junction is the point of contact between trails and/or roads that touch but do not cross one another.  Note the term can apply to only trails, only roads, or a combination of both roads and trails.

Loop Trail:  This term refers to a trail that officially loops back in upon itself, but not necessarily at the beginning of a trail.  This differs from a “there and back” trail (q.v.) in that the loop trail can be hiked without a complete reversal/re-walking of the trail.  Most loops double back upon themselves somewhere along the trail rather than at the beginning of the trail.  Official trails generally contain the term “Loop” in their name (e.g. Pink Beds Loop in the Pisgah Ranger District).   Frequently, I will use some grammatical form of “creating a loop” to refer to the piecing together of two or more trails that are not loops in themselves to create the effect of a loop in which the trails, so combined, allow access to the starting point or a location allowing access to the beginning of the original trail (often combining a road with the trails).  I do this for convenience as many hikers like to “create loops” in order to experience more trails during the individual hike.  I almost always do this if I have the time to spare.  I will not, however, use the term “Loop Trail” when I have pieced together trails.

Overlap:  Like roads, trails sometimes overlap, which means two trails run together (have the same path) for a distance.  This is most common with long distance trails, but also occurs with shorter trails (e.g. the Bearwallow Valley Trail and the Picnic Connector Trail in Gorges State Park).

Spur:  A spur is a short secondary trail off of the primary trail that does not connect to another trail.  These are almost always unofficial trails created by hikers in order to access some natural feature such as a view.

Switchback:  A switchback is a sharply curved portion of a trail designed to avoid excessive slope.  It curves back upon the previous portion of the trail (i.e. it parallels a previous portion of the trail).  There can be only one switchback, but these are frequently combined in a series of switchbacks, creating a “back and forth” portion of a trail.  These are created both to be easier for the hiker and to protect the trail from excessive erosion.  Please do not avoid these by hiking straight through them to avoid the switch-backed portion of the trail; this will cause erosion and may confuse hikers who follow you by making it difficult to recognize the official trail.

There and Back:  I use this term in cases wherein the hiker hikes to the end of a trail that is not accessible from the far end, therefore requiring him to hike back to the starting point.  This term is normally applied to distance.  Note that a trail that is not accessible from the far end does not necessarily require a “there and back” hike if another trail or road is accessible somewhere within the trail and the hiker chooses to incorporate it into the hike.  The “there and back” measurement is important in determining the actual distance one must hike as many trail distances are listed as one way in cases where the hiker must hike two-ways (to the end and back to the beginning), effectively doubling the distance travelled.


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