Laurel River Trail Professional Reviews and Guides
"For dogs who love the woods and love the water, this trail is as good as it gets. Laurel River is also one of the flattest trails to be found in the mountain region of North Carolina, making the 7-mile out and back seem like a cakewalk"
--Karen Chavez, Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina (The Mountaineers Books).
"If you've ever wanted to get an intense rock-riding experience, the 3.6 miles along the Laurel River (7.2 miles total) will provide the perfect setting. The trail narrows down to singletrack for most of the way, weaving through a landscape of laurel, rock cliffs, and rhododendron. That's on one side. On the other is the crashing sound of roaring white water. The reins of an old logging town, Runion, are at the end of the trail."
--Steve Jones, Mountain Bike! The Southern Appalachian & Smoky Mountains (Menasha Ridge Press).
For hiking, I would consider this an easy trail, suitable for all ages and abilities. The quoted 200 foot elevation change is all but unnoticeable. The scenery along the river (creek) is superb and there are a number of neat spots to access the river and swim, either in the rapids or a few deeper swim holes. The weeds get a little high around Runion, and we never saw more than the saw mill remains, but it's an interesting story nonetheless. Once you reach the RR tracks (hardly a steep incline, as described), the path to the French Broad, and the riverside itself is anticlimactic, but I wasn't going to walk 3.5 miles without reaching the end. As for the first three miles, pack a lunch, swim suit and some water shoes, and you'll be set!
I've walked this trail many times in the last few years with my dogs, my 5yr old daughter and sometimes with friends. Though I doubt it's validity as a mtn. bike trail (It seems too easy to me for any real biker) it trully is a wonderful walk. If you're into fishing, I can personally vouche for the fun oyu'll have here.
As a personal challenge, anyone who's seen the "Old Man of the Mountains" in New Hampshire.... keep your eyes open for him as he didn't just fall off Cannon Mtn, he moved down here to retire!
I have hiked this scenic and easy trail twice in the last week and find that it is the perfect in and out excursion. With only a 200 ft. drop in the approximate one way 3.5 miles it makes a wonderful three hour adventure. The trail ends with the ruins of Runion and the RR trestle on the French Broad river and with the dramatic Big Laurel river rushing right alongside the trail anyone of all ages will enjoy this hike. Runion was established in the late 19th century as a lumber town and was abandoned in the late 20's. They obviously took away just about everything when the town died as there is little more than some foundations and building material items. I look forward to the next hike in the spring and the following summer to see how the foliage changes.
This is a marginal ride. It is a beautiful ride, right next to the Laurel. But, as far as a good mountain bike ride, find another trail. I just happen to be staying in Hot Springs so I decided to ride this trail. Super rocky, which is cool going up or down, but this trail is just flat. It was really wet too. The only thing I got out of this ride was a knarly case of poison ivy.
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