March 2013: DuPont State Forest

Cedar Mountain, NC
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THE PARK
The E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company began on a pristine stream in northern Delaware in 1802 to grind explosive black powder. In the 1950s, by then an international chemical giant, the DuPont Company once again went searching for pure water and crisp air but this time it was to manufacture sensitive X-ray film. They landed in 12,000-acre Buck Forest outside Brevard where the DuPont plant was the first in the country to conjure up medical X-ray films on polyester film. In 1996 DuPont sold its facility to Sterling Diagnostic Imaging of Houston and 2,700 acres surrounding the plant. The remaining land was sold to the State for conservation for nickels on the dollar and this became the foundation for the 10,415-acre DuPont State Forest. The diva of the forest is the Little River that makes several picturesque plunges, each unique in its own way, as it flows through the property making the forest the star of Transylvania County’s “Land of Waterfalls.” 

THE WALKS
There are more than 90 - yes, 90 - named trails in DuPont State Forest, all of which are open to your dog. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for your best trail companion at each of the six parking access areas in the forest: Hooker Falls. This is where most waterfall hunters will land and it is the most crowded and least inviting for dog owners. If you have never seen Hooker Falls or Triple Falls or High Falls you will have to vault the metal guardrail with your dog and walk up Triple Falls Trail - a short, but steep one mile - at least once.

Lake Imaging. The lot on the left at the bottom of the hill before Hooker Falls, this is a favorite launching point for equestrians. A superb canine hiking loop can be crafted here with the Ridgeline Trail and the Jim Branch Trail, one of the prettiest footpaths in the entire forest. Unusual for DuPont Forest, water plays almost no role in the canine hiking in this section of the park, save for the namesake pond that offers a refreshing doggie dip at the end of an adventure.

High Falls. Another popular lot for casual hikers hunting waterfalls. The trotting here is mostly on service roads that probe the interior of the forest - and you can chance to see the occasional vehicle on these roads. Once you pass through the covered bridge big walks await your dog, including to Wintergreen Falls, the most remote hydrospectactacular in the forest where the stream makes a hard left turn. Your dog’s best hiking here will be on the Lake Dense Trail that is foot traffic only and leads to a pretty woodland pond with a dock for diving dogs.

Guion Farm. This lot off Sky Valley Road is a good place to create hiking loops of a half-hour or more through an attractive mixed forest including on the Shoal Creek Trail and Hickory Mountain Road, which features some open-air hiking around the farm. This is also a place to tag Stone Mountain, the highest point in the forest at 3,620 feet, although the peak has its own small parking area 1.5 miles further up Sky Valley Road at the Rocky Ridge Trailhead. From Guion Farm the elevation gain is over 1,000 feet but the hard pulling doesn’t begin until the narrow Stone Mountain Trail is reached. Don’t let the tame ridgeline lull your dog into thinking the climb is over before the final ascent to the summit. Your purchase on these slabs of granite are views across the entire DuPont State Forest.

Corn Mill Shoals. This parking area on Cascade Lake Road is a popular one for mountain bikers, with several destinations awaiting. A rocky passage leads up to a slickrock crossing of Cedar Rock and the loop closes from the top of Bridal Veils Falls, where the Little River begins its long slide down the granite face, to a wooded jaunt along the river itself. The shoals are reached from a wide trail of their own but savvy canine hikers will want to detour off the Corn Mill Shoals Trail for the Burnt Mountain Trail, one of the best loops to take with your dog in DuPont forest. On the parking lot side of Cascade Lake Road, guide your dog across the one-step stream to the south and pick up the Wilkie Trail that leads to a seldom-used loop that crosses an open rock face and works back up a farm road and down an abandoned quarry. All good dog hiking stuff. The dog paddling is easy in Lake Dense.

Fawn Lake. The park’s most remote lot on Reasonover Road also offers up some of the most solitary canine hiking in the forest down the Reasonover Creek Trail. It can also be the shortest if you come after a hard rain and the wet-paw crossing of the creek is impassable. In the opposite direction is Fawn Lake and it may be impossible to get your water-loving dog to hike past this enchanting canine swimming hole. Beyond the lake, however, is some excellent open-air trotting along the Airstrip Trail.

Superlative color trail maps are available from area tourist centers - but not on site. The trails are marked at the many junctions but you will really need the map before your come. The map also grades the difficulty of the trails to help you match your canine hiking day in DuPont State Forest to your dog’s abilities.  

SOMETHING SPECIAL
Hollywood has come calling to DuPont State Forest. Hooker, Triple, High and Bridal Veil Falls all took star turns in the Last of the Mohicans. Although there is a rock ledge where you can walk behind Bridal Veil Falls it is not the location for the famous scenes with Daniel Day Lewis in the cave behind the pounding waterfall - those were computer-generated. The 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games was filmed in the forest.  

DIRECTIONS
Between Brevard and Hendersonville. From US 64 take Crab Creek Road east to Staton Road, turning at the brown forest sign. Continue up the mountain to parking areas described below.