The Big South Fork National National River and Recreation Area is one of my secret spots. Sadly, I just can’t stop talking about it. I have a feeling no one else can either and it won’t be a secret for long.
This hike was further south than most of the others we have done because we were staying in Bandy Creek Campground. There are plenty of longer adventures in the area, but we had a rough time with a pipe that refused to stay connected and we were planning on a late ranger-guided night hike. The 3.5 miles of the Middle Creek Trail seemed to leave room for an afternoon nap.
The trailhead is located near Pickett CCC Memorial State Park off of Divide Road, more famous for its access to the Charit Creek Lodoge. It is a gravel road, but should be accessible to most cars as long as you travel slow. We embarked on this hike on the first weekend of June and only two other vehicles shared this trailhead. I can’t make promises, but this seems to be a relatively uncrowded trail.
We explored the loop in the clockwise direction and the first 3/4 mile or so parallel the road. The walk is pretty, but it is disappointing to walk 20 minutes and still hear the occasional vehicle. Just about when I started to loose hope, the trail descends into a hemlock forest and turns to the right. Soon, we hit the first rock shelter. We were amazed by the deep lush cavern. The floor was covered with delicate ferns and water drips echoed throughout.
I truly wish we had kept track of the number of rockshelters we encountered over the next two miles. We would ooh and aah over an amazing shelter, hike another couple hundred yards, and encounter a formation even more amazing. Most shelters were also the source of a small spring that Blue really enjoyed. We debated which shelter would be the best to stop for a quick lunch, and I really am not sure there was any wrong pick. Each was unique and beautiful.
At about 3 miles, we began to climb back to the ridge. It was only about 100 feet in elevation, making this hike a great option for families or anyone with angry knees. I’m not sure if it was because I was going a smidge slower, but it did seem this stretch had the best display of wildflowers.
The final half mile followed an old fire road with some overgrown grasses. I mention this because over the next couple hours we found a handful of ticks on ourselves and the dog. And we were wearing 30% Deet. It was nothing that would prevent me from hiking these amazing areas again, but it does deserve caution.
This was the perfect trail for my mood this day. It was enough of a hike to make me feel like I was doing something, but not enough to be a true effort. I would highly recommend this as a wonderful little hike with at least a half dozen rock shelters.