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Foggy Day at Elk Knob and Mount Jefferson

posted Oct 11, 2017, 4:35 PM by Justin P
Sunday morning, I headed to Elk Knob State Park, arriving at 8.  It was very cloudy and lightly drizzling, but I didn't actually get rained on.  I started on the Summit Trail, heading up the mountain.  The trail is a little steep, gaining about 1000 feet in under 2 miles, but switchbacks keep the slope reasonable.  At the top of the mountain, I headed to both the overlooks, but couldn't see much through the dense clouds.  So I headed back down the mountain.  At the trailhead, I took the short Maple Run Trail to Beech Tree Trail and hiked the short loop.  Then I took the Backcountry Trail down towards the campsites.  The first part was very steep until I reached the headwaters of North Fork New River.  It was barely a trickle up here.  I continued on to Mine Branch and then hiked back out.  At one spot near the park boundary, a break in the trees provided nice views of fall colors on an adjacent peak.  Back at the car, I left Elk Knob and headed to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.  It's been a while since I've visited and since my last time, they built a trail from the park entrance up to the top of the mountain.  So I parked at the visitor center and started hiking up the Mountain Ridge Trail.  The trail switchbacked up and came out at the road near Sunrise Overlook.  There was no seeing the sunrise or anything else from here today.  I missed the turn and just walked the road up to the next overlook - Jefferson Overlook.  I couldn't see much from the overlook, but did find where to pick up the trail on the way down.  It was really hard to find the trail going the other way, so I walked the road up to the upper parking lot.  With the cloudy weather, I didn't have to worry about much traffic.  At the picnic area, I took the Summit Trail up to the top, where there is a radio tower.  I then took Rhododendron Trail out to Luther Rock.  There certainly wasn't much to see so I finished up the Rhododendron Trail loop and started heading back down.  At the end of the parking area, I picked up the Mountain Ridge Trail heading back down.  It's easy to follow going down.  Near Jefferson Overlook, I had to climb down some rocks and there was no indication that this was the trail at the base.  I picked the trail back up at the overlook and followed it back down the mountain.  Driving home the rain picked up, but I managed to miss the rain for my entire hike.
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