All photos captured by Rachel Veale
By Adam Lion
Trail-running can be a fantastic way to spend quality time with yourself and connect with nature. Although graciously sharing the trail with others is an important part of the activity, sometimes we crave solitude in the forest and on mountaintops. Considering the growing population of Asheville and an increasing interest in outdoor recreation, this solitude can be difficult to find. Crowded trail-heads can sometimes feel inescapable, especially during the warmer months. Here are some of my favorite “lesser traveled” trails for wilderness running adventures:
(All recommendations are difficult and intended for experienced runners who are used to technical terrain)
Three Humps Trail
This trail is located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, just 15 minutes southwest of downtown Asheville. This trail follows the western boundary of the forest and ascends (and then descends) several Knobs before arriving at the Mountain to Sea Trail. In order to access Three Humps, Park at Rice Pinnacle Trailhead, and climb North Boundary road for 4 miles. Stay right at the “Five Points” intersection to begin the trail. After 3.5 miles and 1,200 ft of climbing, Three Humps arrives at the Blue Ridge Parkway. From here, many loop options are possible, including a gravel descent on Bent Creek Gap Road or more single-track on the Shut-In Trail.
Jerry Miller Trail
Located 45 minutes away in Madison County, this trail is in the Shelton Laurel Backcountry area of the Pisgah National Forest. 4.5 miles in length and ascending 2,100 ft, this trail leads to the Appalachian Trail. For a ten mile loop option, travel northbound on the AT for 3 miles, and then descend from the mountains via Fork Ridge Trail to arrive back at your car. While on the AT traverse the exposed mountaintop of Firescald Knob, and experience miles of extremely scenic views of both the Tennessee Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. Make sure to stop for wild blueberries during the summer months!
Little East Fork Trail
Looking for an alternative way to experience the Shining Rock Wilderness? This trail ascends from Camp Daniel Boone (outside of Canton) for 5.5 miles, climbing 2,500 ft to arrive at the Art Loeb Trail. There are many side-trip options to choose from, like visiting the brilliant white quartz of Shining Rock, or continuing the climb to ascend Cold Mountain. Continue northbound on the Art Loeb Trail to complete a twelve mile loop.
Newberry Creek Road
Located in the Curtis Creek area just outside of Old Fort, this trail ascends 5.5 miles for 2,500 ft of elevation gain. Run on smooth single track alongside the gushing Newberry Creek as you climb steep terrain, eventually arriving at the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the winter when the parkway is closed to vehicles, turn this into a loop by traveling northbound on the parkway until arriving at the scenic Green Knob Overlook. Here, descend down the mountain via Snooks Nose trail to arrive back at your car.