The playful waters of Coldspring branch offer a nice counterpoint to the overwhelming views of the rock dome called El Lieutenant, the key attraction of this half-day loop. The loop hike described here is a combination of two Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area trails. The Bill Kimball Trail is the more difficult and spectacular, while Coldspring Branch Trail is the more restful. Together, they create a dynamite, but difficult, loop trail. This hike is recommended only for experienced hikers with appropriate equipment, because parts of the Bill Kimball Trail are steep, rocky, and uneven. The star of this hike is a huge rock dome.
Its resemblance to the famous El Capitan of Yosemite National Park has led trail-builders to dub it El Lieutenant. Coldspring Branch harbors now-rare native trout, while ravens, seldom encountered in South Carolina, hang out at El Lieutenant. Broad-winged hawks soar overhead. Of course, Coldspring Branch has plenty of rhododendron and mountain laurel, but the stream is also noted for its spring wildflowers. Trees along the way include northern red oak, scarlet oak, white oak, chestnut oak, white pine, Fraser magnolia, and hickory. Carolina hemlock grow on El Lieutenant.
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