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Laurel River Trail
The Laurel River Trail is a beautiful hiking trail that follows the Laurel River as it reaches the French Broad River. Very family friendly, the trail is fairly level with breathtaking rapids marking several spots. The sound of the river guides you through the trail as the surrounding scenery highlights several varieties of North Carolina flora and fauna. This trail is enjoyable year round and attracts day hikers, mountain bikers, and even kayakers!
Directions and Parking
The parking lot for the trail is located right off of the intersection of Hwy 25/70 and Hwy 208. Please see our new map!
Take I-26W/US-19 N/US-23N/US-70W (8.2 miles), and exit onto US-25 N/ US 70 W/ Weaver Blvd (21.3 miles). The gravel parking lot will be on your left.
From Hot Springs:
Head Northeast on US-25/ S/ US-70 E/ Bridge St. toward Meadow Lane (5.1 miles). Turn right to stay on US-25 S/ US-70 E (30 feet). The gravel parking lot should be on your right.
The trail head is actually located right off of the intersection of Hwy 25/70 and Hwy 208 and is quite easy to spot with its gravel parking lot located right next to the river. The beginning of the trail is located on private property; therefore it is strongly encouraged to stay on the pathway! As the trail winds alongside the river, the pathway consists compacted dirt mixed with smaller rocks; however, it is also worth noting that for avid mountain bikers, there are a few ‘rock gardens’ that have ‘baby-heads’ or larger rocks that make for slow going at certain points.
Within the first quarter of the trail, as the path travels down a slight hill, a retired train car can be seen through the trees on the left hand side; a reminder of the once-working railway line. As you continue on the trail, high cliffs border one side of the trail, while the river hugs the other side. At several points along the trail there is access to the Laurel River, and it is here where swimming holes can be found or even shallower pools to cool the feet. There were also 4 camping sites that could be seen from the trail that included a small clearing for tents and rock rings for smaller campsite fires.
The maintenance of the trail was very current, with recently felled trees either cleared from the path entirely or cut through with a chainsaw, leaving room to continue traveling on the pathway. This trail is frequented by all groups of outdoor lovers: families with small children, day-hikers with walking sticks, and even kayakers carrying their kayaks on their heads! At various points along the trail there are subtle reminders of the train traffic that once existed; small coal deposits mixed in with the rocks and an unmarked concrete building that possibly stored coal. As the trail nears the end, it is intersected by a currently active railway- an appropriate end to the ghost of railways past. While the trail extends beyond the train tracks, the larger French Broad River can be seen peeking through the trees, tempting you to come and visit its shoreline. The best part about this trail is that is has one access point, so you get to do it all over again!
This trail is accessible year round, with the signature rhododendron plants, glacier rocks, and rushing rivers of the Western North Carolina Mountains serving as a reminder of the natural beauty of our great state.
View area Attractions
Length/Duration: 3.6 miles, via bicycle: 1.5 hours
Location: Western North Carolina. Madison County. Intersection of Hwy 25/70 and Hwy 208
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