A Real Butt-Kicker – Hiking The Farlow Gap Trail and Daniel Ridge Loop In Pisgah National Forest

The Prelude

February 16th, 2018

On Friday, Wayne, Pam, and I rendezvoused in Walhalla at 8 am, climbed into Wayne’s truck and headed towards Pisgah National Forest to do some hiking. This would be the first time since December 22nd of last year that the three of us would be hiking together. Wayne just recently arrived back in town after having spent more than a month visiting family in Guam, and traveling with them to Vietnam and Cambodia. Though it was interesting to follow his adventures on Facebook, particularly the scenic hikes that he had done while in Guam, it’s good to have him back, if even for a brief time. In only two or three weeks, Wayne will be setting out on a thru-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail. Wayne is a strong hiker and he’s mentally and physically tough, so he definitely has what it takes to make it the whole way.

As for today, we had originally planned to hike to the top of Cold Mountain in North Carolina. It’s a strenuous climb that gains about 3,000 feet in elevation in just five miles. Wayne and some of the others from our hiking club have done that climb before, but Pam and I still need to do it. Because the weather forecast was calling for clouds and an increased chance of rain for the early afternoon, we decided to do the Daniel Ridge Loop and the Farlow Gap Trail instead. In a way, I was relieved. I figured that it meant that we’d have an easier day. Boy, was I wrong! Though the Daniel Ridge Loop was only moderately difficult, the Farlow Gap Trail, which we did as an out and back, turned out to be quite a challenge. It climbed steeply, was rutted and eroded, and was full of rocks and large boulders. In fact, at times it was more like we were climbing up a mountain wash rather than hiking on a trail.

The Hike

After Wayne parked his truck at the trailhead, we put our gear on and began our hike. Right away, we came to this Iron bridge over the Davidson River. As you can see, the bridge is covered with a fair amount of graffiti. While I’m not a fan of graffiti, I thought that some of it was at least a little bit humorous.

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This was the view from the middle of the bridge. The trail in this area climbed gently and stayed close to the river. We passed several primitive campsites situated in level places along its bank.

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At this location, the bridge that had spanned the gap is out, and the trail that had crossed it is closed. The only thing to warn you is a wand a few feet away. If you were mountain biking or hiking in low light, such as at dusk or dawn, the wand would be easy to miss and could result in a bad fall.

In the background, Pam is checking out a mountain bike which we found leaning against a tree. Nobody was around, so we didn’t know who it belonged to. It’s a good thing that it was chained to the tree because Pam seemed like she was more than a little tempted to ride off on it.

After having hiked 2.1 miles, we arrived at the junction for the Farlow Gap Trail. Just beyond the junction, we had to cross the Right Fork of the Davidson River. Normally, it would probably be a relatively easy boulder hop, but because we’ve had a lot of heavy rain in the region recently, the water was running higher and somewhat swifter than usual.

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While it was a little tricky, Wayne and I managed to get across with our feet still dry. Pam, on the other hand, decided to change into her water shoes, rather than chance slipping on the boulders. Below is a short video clip.

After crossing the Right Fork, the trail follows a series of switchbacks. Here, we climbed some steps made from logs and large stones. To the right of the steps was a tall waterfall. There wasn’t a lot of water running down its face though and I suspect that it would be dry if it weren’t for all of the recent rain.

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As we continued to hike along the Farlow Gap Trail, we had more creeks to cross. I’ve looked at a map and tried to identify them all but I’m not sure of the name of this one. At least it was small and much easier to cross than some of the others.

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This video clip was filmed at Shuck Ridge Creek, at the top of Shuck Ridge Creek Falls. The swiftly moving water and wet, slick boulders, combined with the fact that we were mere feet away from the edge of the 25 feet high waterfall, made this crossing potentially risky.

The Farlow Gap Trail terminates at a junction for the Art Loeb Trail. The last mile or so climbs very steeply and is very rugged. At times, it was so rough that I doubted that we were on a legitimate trail. Maybe we had missed a turn. Only the occasional blaze assured me that we were still on track.

When we finally made it to the Art Loeb Trail, we decided that we would take a break and eat our lunches before turning around to head back down. The wind at the top of the ridge was blowing pretty hard, which made it feel a bit chilly. We had hoped that this huge boulder might block some of the wind, but because the wind was swirling, it didn’t end up helping very much.

This is a panorama from along the trail after we finally began our descent.

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These are the same log and stone steps that we had climbed on the way in. The perspective is very different from the top looking down.

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When we finally made it back to the junction for the Daniel Ridge Trail, we went left so that we could finish the loop.

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Though there was still some climbing to do, it was much more moderate. The trail followed Tom’s Spring for most of way and crossed it several times on small wooden footbridges. The spring seemed fairly insignificant at first, and I couldn’t imagine that there would be much of a waterfall anywhere along its course. Soon, however, the spring picked up a lot of speed when the terrain turned more steeply downhill.

After having hiked 12 miles, we arrived at the bottom of Tom’s Spring Falls. The falls are 120 feet high from the top down to the base and are actually quite impressive.

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From the falls, we had another half mile or so to go before we arrived back at Wayne’s truck. Here’s a video clip of the falls.

The Wrap

In all, we had hiked 12.5 miles. Our total vertical elevation gain/loss was close to 6,100 feet. After having dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Brevard, North Carolina, we made the long drive home. This had been a very strenuous hike and a long day. Maybe next time, we’ll do something comparatively easy, like climbing Cold Mountain.



4 thoughts on “A Real Butt-Kicker – Hiking The Farlow Gap Trail and Daniel Ridge Loop In Pisgah National Forest

    1. It is beautiful, and indeed very rugged. Wayne, Pam, and I passed several primitive campsites during our hike. I’d definitely like to go back with my wife and kids and camp for a couple of nights. Thanks for reading.

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