Youngs Mountain Trail in Hickory Nut Gorge now open

Press release from Conserving Carolina: 

View from the top of Youngs Mountain Trail. Courtesy of Conserving Carolina

A new hiking trail just opened at Youngs Mountain, offering spectacular views of Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald, Weed Patch Mountain, and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. Conserving Carolina opened the 2.1 mile trail with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, April 21.

Trails Specialist Peter Barr says The Youngs Mountain Trail is Conserving Carolina’s most spectacular trail project yet, and it will serve as a crown jewel segment of the budding Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail network. Its overhanging rocks and dramatic cliff ledges offer stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains, including Buffalo Creek Park and Chimney Rock State Park. With the opening of the Youngs Mountain Trail, this breathtaking landscape is one step closer to being linked together by the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail.”

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.

David Lee, Conserving Carolina’s Natural Resources Manager, says, “This project beautifully combines conservation and sustainable recreation. Critical habitat for over 380 plant and animal species, including 25 rare species, is now permanently protected. All the while, the Youngs Mountain Trail expertly winds its way through spectacular hardwood forests and low elevation glade communities before terminating atop a granitic dome. This trail really shows off some of the best that North Carolina has to offer.“

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. Vital funding for land acquisition and trail building came from the RHI Legacy Fund, NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, NC Land and Water Fund, Open Space Institute, Recreational Trails Program, Tommy Hartzog, Fred and Alice Stanback, and Tim Sweeney. 

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 Conserving Carolina plans to extend the trail in the future to connect to a larger parking area outside of the gated neighborhood.

Steve Garrison, the Rutherford County Manager, says, ““The County is excited about adding a new addition to our growing trail systems and to offer our citizens and visitors an opportunity to explore the grand, vast and natural beauty hidden in the coves, mountains, and foothills of Rutherford County. We appreciate the partnerships we have with groups such as Conserving Carolina, Rutherford Outdoor Coalition and others dedicated to expanding, maintaining, and promoting our trail systems.”

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. Conserving Carolina has already earned national awards for two of its sustainable trails—Wildcat Rock Trail and Weed Patch Mountain Trail. The Youngs Mountain Trail carries on this commitment to excellence. The trail 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, in order to provide an enjoyable hike with incredible views.

The Youngs Mountain Trail was designed by Conserving Carolina’s Trails Specialist, Peter Barr. Construction was completed by Singletrack Trails and its award-winning trail builder Shrimper Khare and supplemented by Conserving Carolina’s Rock Crushers crew. Additional features on the trail were built by Benchmark Trails and American Conservation Experience.

RHI Legacy Foundation Board Chair, Beth Miller says, “RHI Legacy Foundation is proud to have been able to assist in providing financial assistance for the construction of the Youngs Mountain Trail. One of our three focus areas is ‘Active Living’ and the Youngs Mountain Trail is another asset in our community that will allow people to be outdoors and involved in physical activity. We appreciate Conserving Carolina and its dedicated staff for their continued efforts to provide trails with scenic views such as Youngs Mountain Trail while preserving nature and all its beauty.”

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