Flat Laurel Creek Trail

At A Glance


3.7 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 3.7
Steepness: Climbs Gently
Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Blaze Color: Orange
Trail Number: 346
Hikes That Use This Trail: Flat Laurel Creek


Follows an old railroad grade up from NC 215 to the end of FS 816, the Black Balsam parking area. It's a gentle climb on a wide trail; it's very rocky all the way. It's also a unique trail since it's entire length is above 5000 ft. elevation.

Starts with a crossing of Bubbling Springs Branch. You should be able to rock-hop this if the water is low; if it is extremely high it might not be a safe crossing. The trail then goes generally northeast into mixed high-elevation hardwoods. The forest transitions to mostly spruce/fir by the trail's upper end.

The trail passes over an old concrete bridge with Wildcat Falls streaming underneath it, then travels along the mountainside. There are some excellent views in more open areas. Prolific rhododendron, mountain laurel and blueberry shrubs line the trail. The trail slips into the Flat Laurel Creek valley and turns southeast; its eponymous stream has some nice cascades on the left side of the trail as the creek spills out of valley.

Above the cascades, the trail follows the creek for a ways before pulling away to the right. Flat Laurel Creek valley is indeed relatively flat. The trail passes nice campsites and through grassy, high-elevation meadows. Low forests and open meadows grow to the left with a dense spruce reforestation area to the right; several Fraser fir also line the trail. Although much maintenance has been done recently improving the surface, several stream crossings and wet areas round off the hike as it swings back to the north to meet the upper the parking area.

Intersecting Trails

  • Little Sam
  • Sam Knob
  • This trail is located in the Black Balsam area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Black Balsam trails list page.

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    GPS Map

    Map Information

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    About the Map


    Base Layers

    Base layers provided by OpenStreetMap, the US Geological Survey, the US Forest Service, and NC OneMap. Base layer images are subject to the respective copyright policies of their owners. Base layers may not be available at all times due to system maintenance or outages.

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    The WNCOutdoors Base layer is provided by WNCOutdoors.info. It is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

    Trail and Marker Overlays

    Trail layers and downloadable data are all original works created by WNCOutdoors with guidance from a variety of sources, including ensembles of our own GPS tracks, user contributed GPS tracks, official maps and GIS data from government agencies, and field observations. WNCOutdoors data is made freely available under the Open Database License - you are free to copy and use it for any purpose under the terms of that license (summary).


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    Trail Segments

    Trails are often made up of several connecting paths which may have different characteristics, allowed uses, and seasons. This trail is divided into multiple segments as follows:

    Flat Laurel Creek - NC 215 to Sam Knob Tr.

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Mountain Biking
    • Length: 2.32 mi

    Flat Laurel Creek - Sam Knob Tr. to Little Sam Tr.

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Mountain Biking
    • Length: 0.38 mi

    Flat Laurel Creek - Little Sam Tr. to Ivestor Gap Parking

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Mountain Biking
    • Length: 1.07 mi

    Total Calculated Length: 3.76 mi

    This value is derived from our underlying map data, and it may not match officially published information.



    Average Rating: 3.7 (rated 13 times)

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    Warren said: September 2, 2021. Hiked the upper portion of Flat Laurel Creek Trail after doing Sam Knob from the parking area. This trail is rated easy, maybe because the grade is very gradual. The trail condition was wet the whole way up, very rocky (small, medium and larger); narrow U-shaped tread much of the way. I did this entire trail on mountain bike about 5 years ago, from 215 parking to the top, but I would not be able to bike this now; it seems the erosion has made it too difficult for me; there are many 12”-18” drops that would stop me going up. Coming down on bike would be a challenge too. Many bushes very close to the trail, at spots, leaves you claustrophobic.

    Saturday, September 4 2021 1:59pm

    hulia kelly said: excellent information here!

    Friday, May 31 2013 7:14pm
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