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View from the Top

View from the Top: The new Youngs Mountain Trail in Rutherford County reaches spectacular vantages
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Volunteers Bob Carlson and Kim Chao take in the trail they helped build. 

This spring, a remarkable new hiking trail opened at Youngs Mountain, offering spectacular views of Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald, Weed Patch Mountain, and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. The 2.1-mile trail (4.2 miles out-and-back) was created by partnership spearheaded by Hendersonville-based land trust Conserving Carolina.

The trail passes through 437 acres of forever-protected land that provides a haven for biodiversity, including numerous rare or endangered plants and animals. The mountain is home to bear, deer, bobcats, turkeys, and many other kinds of wildlife. The lower part of the trail crosses several beautiful brooks while the top of the trail passes over sheer rock with a lush community of mosses and lichens.

“This project beautifully combines conservation and sustainable recreation,” says David Lee, Conserving Carolina’s Natural Resources Manager. “[It] really shows off some of the best that North Carolina has to offer.”

(Above right) The route is a showcase of sustainable trail-building methods.

Because the trail goes to the tops of cliffs and precarious outcrops, hikers are advised to use great caution. The out-and-back trail is also quite steep and strenuous, with over 300 stone and log steps. However, hikers could also opt to hike only the lower, more moderate section, which provides a beautiful walk in the woods, culminated by gorgeous views from the first rock outcrops.

The trail passes through land owned by Conserving Carolina as well as the Youngs Mountain Trail Park, which is owned by Rutherford County. Currently, only a very small parking area is available at the trailhead, which is in the gated Tatanka neighborhood north of Lake Lure. Because parking is so limited, trail users must register for a free parking day pass (at conservingcarolina.com/youngs-mountain). Conserving Carolina plans to extend the trail in the future to connect to a larger parking area outside of the gated neighborhood.

The trail traverses to several awe-inspiring vistas.

The trail is the newest addition to the emerging Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail network, and will one day connect to other trails, including the nearby Weed Patch Mountain Trail. It also represents a likely future connection between the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail and the proposed Wilderness Gateway State Trail, which will ultimately extend as far east as Hickory.

The trail was built to the highest standards of sustainable trail building, in order to reduce erosion, protect water quality, and minimize needs for future maintenance. Its design includes frequent rises, dips, and curves that shed water off the trail. In the steepest sections, hundreds of sturdy stone and log steps prevent erosion. In addition, the trail includes creative features as it takes you over rocks and streams and out to dramatic outcrops, packing an enjoyable hike with incredible views.

Rose Jenkins Lane is communications and marketing director of Conserving Carolina.