Journal/Blog‎ > ‎

Doughton Park Training Hike

posted Jun 5, 2015, 3:59 AM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 3, 2015, 1:30 PM ]

This past Saturday, we headed up to Doughton Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a long conditioning hike as we get ready for our trip to Glacier National Park.  We met in Chapel Hill at 7 and carpooled out to the trailhead on Long Bottom Road, arriving right at 930.  After getting our stuff together, we started out our hike along Grassy Gap Road.  Almost immediately, we turned right to head up Cedar Ridge Trail.  And up and up!  The trail is quite steep and wastes no time heading up.  Although the temperatures were mild today, the humidity was intense down in the gorge and soon we were all dripping with sweat.  Fortunately, the mountain laurel that was blooming along the trail providing a much needed distraction (and opportunity to stop for pictures).

The going was slow until we reached the end of Cedar Ridge Trail.  At this point, we turned left to get on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which runs concurrently with Bluff Mountain Trail, roughly following the Blue Ridge Parkway southbound.  Although the trail had some ups and downs, it was much more level than the hike up to this point.  Moreover, the humidity dropped as we hiked up out of the gorge and there were nice breezes to cool us off.  We hiked past some lovely wildflower meadows and through the campground and stopped briefly to replenish our water. 

We had drank a lot hiking up.  Then, we continued following the trail, crossing the parkway several times.  At one spot, it crosses the parkway at Low Notch, a nice spot with scenic views of the gorge and foothills below.

Up at this elevation, we saw more rhododendron and flame azaleas than mountain laurel.

After passing the closed gift shop, we got off the trail and hiked up past the lodge to Wildcat Rocks Overlook and stopped here to eat our lunch.  The views here are fantastic and it was a great spot to sit and eat.

Far below, we could see Caudill Cabin deep in the Basin Cove Valley.

And there was some spider wort blooming right by the overlook.

After lunch, we headed back towards Bluff Mountain Trail.  A beautiful patch of flame azalea was blooming along here.

We stopped for some pictures and then got back on Bluff Mountain Trail and continued hiking southbound.  Much of this area is bald and so the views over the valley are wonderful.  We saw a herd of cows grazing at one point, helping to keep the vegetation down.  We also saw an interesting lone tree standing near Bluff Mountain.

I pointed this tree out to Sandy as we would be able to see it from a distance much further along in our hike.  Soon, we made the easy climb up to the summit of Bluff Mountain and then headed back down via a number of switchbacks.

The trail continues to follow the parkway southbound, but through more forested areas so no more sweeping panoramic views.  We did see a number of wildflowers blooming in the area, including bright red fire pink and the purple Virginia waterleaf.

When we reached the Basin Cove Overlook, we turned onto Flat Rock Ridge Trail to head back to the parking area.  The trail descends for a while, then starts heading back up to near the summit of Flat Rock Ridge.  Near the top, there was a break in the trees and we could see across the gorge.  Far in the distance, we could see that lone tree that we passed several hours earlier.

After this point, the trail is all downhill back to the parking lot.  The trail is forested so no sweeping views, though we did see some more mountain laurel blooming.  On our way home, we stopped at Kiosko in Greensboro for Mexican for dinner.