Hiking in Buffalo Creek Park
One of Western North Carolina's newest trail systems has opened at Buffalo Creek Park, near the town of Lake Lure, NC. Beautifully constructed by the folks at Trail Dynamics in Pisgah Forest, NC, the trails will be open to mountain biking and foot travel. About five miles of trails have been constructed at the park so far, and are open for travel.
The next planned phase of development calls for adding add 5-7 more miles of trail. The trail will head west on a segment called the "Lake Lure Summits trail", to reach State Park property at a point near Shumont Mounatain. We're looking forward to that, and until more trail mileage is built, I don't know that I'd recommend driving all day just to hike what's currently here - but it is certainly worthy of a stop if you're already in the area and looking to put boots on dirt.
The park features some new, purpose-built trails which, for now, consist of a short connector trail to a loop. The loop winds its way up the steep slopes of a ridge near Weed Patch Mountain, totaling about 5 miles. The loop portion is directional - meaning hikers and mountain bikers travel in different directions to minimize conflicts, and the direction alternates every other day. A big sign at the loop junction marks the correct way.
A short out-and-back extension has been built that is part of an eventual connection to Chimney Rock State Park, to form a link in the upcoming Hickory Nut Gorge Loop Trail. When finished, it is planned to circumnavigate the entire State Park and Hickory Nut Gorge area. Right now, it adds about a mile one-way to the hike.
The loop trail features dozens of switchbacks banked with bicycles in mind, and is neither steep nor difficult overall. However, you'll get your workout since it does climb over 600' in elevation, and the frequent up-and-down traversal of the large water turnouts probably adds to that considerably for hikers (who can't just coast over them).
The trail passes through a mixed hardwood forest for much of its length, with a patch of somewhat healthy hemlock trees still standing near the creek at the bottom. Several footbridges over streams at the lowest elevations of the trail add variety, and there are some limited views near the northernmost leg.
At the trail's highest point (which is still less than 1600 ft. elevation), you'll pass through a neat boulder field - a spot pouplar with climbers - and a nice change in the overall scenery. A small cave in the rock is next to the trail on the uphill side, while the top of a huge boulder (covered in poison ivy) is visible to the downhill side. Views of the adjacent mountains and nearby Bald Mountain Lake open up in places as well.
From Asheville, take I-240 East to I-40 East to exit 53A, US Hwy 74-A (Bat Cave). Follow 74-A for 27.4 miles past the I-40 overpass, though Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, and turn left on Bills Creek Road. Go 1.9 miles and turn left on Buffalo Creek Road. Go 2.4 miles, and turn right to stay on Buffalo Creek Road. Go another 1.6 miles; the parking area will be on your left.