Hiking in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Hiking in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness


For hikers and backpackers, the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness presents a variety of recreational hiking opportunities.

Hiking Trails

Of course, there is the relatively easy two-mile long Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail in the Memorial Forest section of the Wilderness, which hosts over 30,00 visitors annually. This part of the Wilderness is so popular it featurs its own trailhead page

There is also a complex of hiking trails that cater to more experienced hikers, such as the 13.3 mile long Slickrock Creek Trail, considered to be one of the most challenging trails in the region. With a 3,700 foot climb overall and 13 stream crossings, this trail is seldom traversed in its entirety, but used in conjunction with the other trails in the Wilderness to provide excellent backpacking trips.

Some of the trails joining Slickrock Creek include Ike Branch, which can be combined to form a loop in the northern end of the Wilderness. The Windy Gap and Big Fat trails connect to Slickrock Creek (the former via Nichols Cove) to form their own loop. Hangover Lead trail climbs to a clifftop view known as the Hangover, while Haoe Lead leads to the same point from the east.

South of Haoe, Naked Ground and Stratton Bald trails encircle the south side of the Little Santeetlah Creek valley, which contains a large tract of old growth forest. These trails are best experienced as one- or two-night backpacking trips.

This is just an overview of the trails in the area. For all the trail details, see the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wildernes Trails Page.

Other than at trailheads, camping is allowed anywhere within the Wilderness using Leave No Trace principles, but given the steepness of the topography, there are a few relatively heavily used back country camping areas. Many fishermen enter the Wilderness from the north using the Slickrock Creek Trail, Ike Branch Trail or hike down to the creek from Big Fat Gap, camping along the creek. Backpackers use the area at Naked Ground on the southern ridge, and there is an area near the Hangover that offers excellent views, but an unreliable water source. Nichols Cove area has good camping spots with abundant water, and some hikers camp near Wildcat Falls, but long sections of the various trails lack suitable spots for camping.

As a designated Wilderness, there are no trail blazes, just signs at trail junctions, so it is essential that hikers carry maps and compass, and know how to use them. It is not uncommon for very experienced hikers to get “confused” for a while in the creek area due to the multiplicity of real trails, unofficial trails, old logging trails, etc. Along the ridge, the trails are well-defined, but physically demanding.