Old growth sites GSMNP   Jess Riddle
  Apr 01, 2007 07:31 PDT 

Hello Ron,

Sounds like an excellent trip for a hiking group. You'll probably
want to focus on the slopes of Clingmans Dome, Mount Le Conte, and
Mount Guyot in the eastern half of the park. The western half lacks
spruce-fir forest (you're correct, red spruce and fraser fir), and was
generally more thuroughly logged, although large trackts of old-growth
remain. The eastern half will still leave you with plenty of hiking
options, especially if you're willing to set up a vehicle shuttle.

Fork Ridge Trail and upper end of Deep Creek Trail: passes through
red spruce, northern hardwood, eastern hemlock, dead beach gap
communities, and a small but good example of rich cove near trail
intersection. 9.1 miles with a campsite in the middle. Requires
shuttle. Descent 2800', ascent 1700'. Could be extended along the AT
to top of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in TN and the park at
6643', to include mostly fraser fir forest, mostly killed by balsam
woolly adelgid. Could also be extended further down deep creek to
include more eastern hemlock forest.

Alum Cave Trail: spruce forest, heath bald, and fir forest. Gains
2600' of elevation over five miles, and the shelter at the end of the
trail on top of Mount Le Conte may be reserved. The trail ties in to
several others near the top of Mount Le Conte, but a shuttle would be

Trillium Gap Trail: rich cove forest (without tuliptree), hemlock
forest, spruce forest, fir forest. The trail gains 3200' over 6.4
miles to end at the shelter on Mount Le Conte. May be extended along
several trails from the top of Mount Le Conte, including loops with
Rainbow Falls Trail or Bullhead Trail.

Snake Den Ridge Trail-Maddron Bald Trail-Gabes Mountain Trail loop:
Rich cove, small area of health bald, spruce forest, hemlock forest,
old fields. The 17.5 mile loop includes two campsites. The Albright
Grove Loop Trail is a worthwhile short spur off of Maddron Bald Trail.

Baxter Creek Trail: rich cove (extremely productive, but second
growth), dry ridge forest, hemlock forest, spruce forest, spruce-fir
forest. The trail gains 4100' elevation over 6.2 miles, and has a
campsite where it ends on top of Mount Sterling (5842'). The Mount
Sterling Ridge Trail, Swallow Fork Trail, and Big Creek Trail allow a
long loop to be formed, but much of that loop was logged by railroads.
The route could also be extended 1.8 miles on the Mount Sterling
Trail to include northern hardwood like forests if a shuttle were

A multitude of other trails in the park have slightly less variety or
facilitate loops less, but have excellent examples of uncut forests.
I feel like I'm leaving out so many wonderful trails. Hopefully the
above trails will at least provide a few starting points to get ideas.
Please let me know if you would like more information on any of the
trails, or details on the highlights along them. Some of the trails I
have only hiked part of.

I'm not sure where to recommend for Carolina hemlocks. At one time I
would have enthusiastically recommended Linville Gorge, but I think
the adelgid has already killed most of the hemlocks in that area. All
of the other good examples of Carolina hemlock forest I've seen are on
private land or are difficult to access. Looking Glass Rock might be
worth looking into though. Carolina hemlocks line the top of the
cliff, and the trail to the top features uncut dry oak forests.


Re: Recommended old growth sites GSMNP   Neil Pederson
  Apr 01, 2007 09:40 PDT 

If this fits into your plans, Hanging Rock State Park in NC,
http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/haro/home.html , has a fair amount of
healthy-looking Carolina hemlock on Hanging Rock; I visited in early
January. The neat thing to me is that on the south side of this knob there
was a nice population of table-mountain pine. If you visit on a clear day,
the views into the Piedmont to the south and Blue Ridge Mtns to the north
from Hanging Rock are wonderful.

hope this helps,