An historic route that was restored and dedicated this summer, this trail offers a strenuous hike into one of the last old-growth forests below Grandfather Mountain.
Start from the Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve stables, and follow the winding descent to explore the cove forest above China Creek. For a three-mile hike, spot a car on the forest service road below and continue left along the creek. For a five-mile hike, turn right for the strenuous climb back up the creek’s cascade-laced scenery. It’s a short side step off the path to view impressive stone chimneys from a long-gone family farm. The trail passes a popular bouldering site and tops out back in Blowing Rock at a state rest area on U.S. 221 at the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you haven’t spotted a second car there (much easier than leaving one below), just walk U.S. 221 and a Cone Park carriage path back to your car for a six mile hike.
Navigate: Park near the show grounds at Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve a mile south of Blowing Rock. The trailhead is on Laurel Lane. To reach the rest area trailhead, head south from Blowing Rock on U.S. 221 and turn left into the second rest area entrance in 1.8 miles (trailhead is on the immediate right).