Curtis Creek

Curtis Creek is a an area in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County near the town of Old Fort.  The Curtis Creek area was the first tract of land purchased for an eastern National Forest under the Weeks Act in 1911.  The area contains a campground, picnic areas and several miles of hiking trails.

Directions:

The Curtis Creek area is located northeast of Old Fort.  Coming from the west, take I-40 to exit 72 and follow US-70 east through Old Fort.  In about 2.5 miles, turn left on Curtis Creek Road.  Coming from the east, take exit 75 from I-40 and turn left on Greenlee Road.  In a little over a mile from the interstate, cross US-70 and the road becomes Curtis Creek Road.  In about 2.5 miles, the road becomes gravel and in another mile becomes Forest Service Road 482; it's about 5 miles from US-70 to the campground.

Map:

Hiking:

There are several miles of hiking trails in the Curtis Creek area, but the trails are challenging and can be difficult to follow.  Hickory Branch and Snooks Nose Trails start from near the campground.

Hickory Branch Trail (#213):

Length: 1.6 miles
Blaze: Orange
Difficulty: Moderate

Hickory Branch Trail follows its namesake creek upstream for about 1.2 miles from the campground.  The trailhead is on the left at the information kiosk after crossing Curtis Creek and the main campground.  Walk across the road and past the tent campsites in the open field to pick up the trail.  It heads steeply up a ridge and then down the other side to pick up Hickory Branch.  Cross the creek and follow it upstream.  In about a quarter-mile, cross the creek again and follow it upstream on the other side.  Just after hiking around a small drainage, a side path leads to the base of Hickory Branch Falls.  Staying on the trail, you'll be able to see the waterfall from above.  Just above the waterfall is couple of scenic cascades.  The trail crosses Hickory Branch two more times and then a tributary.  Right past here is Upper Hickory Branch Falls.  After this point, the trail gets away from the creek and climbs steeply up, ending at an intersection with Lead Mine Gap Trail.

Lead Mine Gap Trail (#212):

Length: 2.3 miles
Blaze: Yellow
Difficulty: Moderate

Lead Mine Gap Trail leads from Curtis Creek Road up to Buckeye Eye Knob and then down to Mackey Creek.  I've only hiked a short stretch near the intersection with Hickory Branch Trail.  Past this intersection, the trail becomes really hard to follow as it descends towards Mackey Creek.

Snooks Nose Trail (#211):

Length: 3.9 miles
Blaze: Yellow
Difficulty: Moderate

Snooks Nose Trail leads from the campground up to its namesake peak and continues on to terminate at the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Although the Forest Service lists this trail as moderate in difficulty, I would consider it strenuous as it is one of the steepest trails I've hiked.  The trail starts along Curtis Creek Road across from the campground restrooms.  Following an old logging grade, the trail heads towards Slick Falls Branch and then steeply heads up via switchbacks.  The trail then heads away from the creek, passing a campsite, and then gets very steep as it heads up to Snooks Nose.  In just under 2 miles, the trail passes a rocky outcrop near the summit of Snooks Nose with nice views to the east and levels off a bit.  Past Snooks Nose, the trail heads up towards Laurel Knob, but it not nearly as steep as the first part of the trail.  The trail then descends a bit and gets steep again for the last stretch to lead up to the Green Knob Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Waterfalls:

Hickory Branch Falls:

Hickory Branch Falls is a scenic 30-foot waterfall on its namesake creek.  The hike to the waterfall is about a mile or so round trip and moderate in difficulty.  Cross the road from the parking area and walk in between two campsites to the trailhead.  The trail heads up and then down a ridge and then crosses Hickory Branch.  Once across, turn left and follow the creek upstream.  There's another creek crossing and then the trail swings around a small tributary.  As the trail approaches Hickory Branch again, look for a side path that heads down to the creek and upstream to the base of the waterfall.  A tree had fallen right on it when I visited so I had to get to the other side of the creek for a picture.

Hickory Branch Upper Falls:

Upper Hickory Branch Falls is just upstream another quarter mile.  Continue on the trail past Hickory Branch Falls, crossing Hickory Branch twice and then crossing a tributary.  Just after this, the waterfall should be visible from the trail and an obvious path leads to it.  It's pretty high up, so need to visit after a good rain.  There were several down trees on it when I visited.

Slick Falls:

Slick Falls is a tall cascading waterfall on Slick Falls Branch.  Unfortunately, there's no good way to see it.  Follow Snooks Nose Trail about a half-mile to where it crosses Slick Falls Branch.  The trail gets steep at this point and begins to switchback.  At the second left-hand switchback, get off the trail and follow an obvious path that heads towards the creek near the base of the waterfall.  The banks are so steep and overgrown with rhododendron and other vegetation that it's impossible to get a good view.

Blog Entries:


01-Sep-2018: Old Fort Hikes

21-Oct-2016: Fall Foliage 2016

External Links:

US Forest Service webpage for Curtis Creek: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=70826