Fork Mountain Trail Loop – 21.7 mile dayhike

This is a wooded trail that starts at Burrels Ford Road and passes north of Fork Mountain.  It forms a loop by connecting the Chattooga River Trail to the Fork Mountain Trail.  The Fork Mountain Trail takes you to Sloan Bridge.  From there, you hike on the Foothills trail back down to Burrels Ford.  You could of course, do the loop in the other direction.  There is a lot of climbing involved either way.

I had been wanting to do this hike for some time and was waiting for the weather to turn cooler.  I finally got my chance this past Saturday.  I arrived at the Burrels Ford parking area at 8:25 am and was on the trail by 8:49 am.  The temperature was 32 degrees and the moon was still visible between the trees in the morning sky.

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I started my day by doing the short out and back hike to King Creek Falls.  Along the way, I passed a small cascade on the creek.

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Just a few minutes later, I arrived at the falls.  King Creek Falls drops about 60 – 70 feet from the top to the pool at the base.  This is one of my favorite local water falls.

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There were a couple of trout swimming in the shallow water of the pool.

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After spending a few minutes alone at the falls, I hiked back out to Burrels Ford.  From there, I crossed the gravel road and began hiking north on the Foothills Trail.  Along the way I walked through a tunnel of rhododendron.

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The trail also passes between these large boulders and makes for a tight squeeze.

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After hiking for six-tenths of a mile, I reached the junction for the spur that would take me to the Chattooga River Trail.  Later in the day, I would close the loop by hiking back down to this spot from the Foothills Trail.

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This spur is 1.1 miles long and is not well blazed.  With all the leaves on the ground, it made it hard at times to follow the trail.  At one place in particular, I had to stop and spend a couple of minutes looking around before I could find the tread again.

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The Chattooga River Trail is much easier to follow.

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At this spot along the trail, someone has stacked some stones on the boulders in the middle of the river.

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This next image was taken at the same spot facing up river.

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Throughout my hike, I was treated to lots of fall colors.

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Here, I’m at a bend in the river.

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Just beyond a nice camping area, is a 60 foot wooden bridge that crosses the East Fork of the Chattooga.

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When I reached the middle of the bridge, I stopped and snapped this photo of the East Fork.  For me, this image captures the moment and has a rather surreal quality to it.

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During my hike, I had to make several creek crossings on boulders.  Here, I had just crossed Bad Creek.

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It’s hard to capture the scale but the boulder in this image is at least as big as a large truck.

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Here, sunlight is filtering through the forest trees.

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During portions of my hike, I felt like I was being teased by mountain views barely visible through the trees.  The winter views must be very nice, so maybe I’ll have to come back.

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The scale was hard to capture here again, but this tree was huge and impressive.  It was probably the single biggest tree that I saw during my entire hike.

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This is another pretty picture of the forest with it’s tapestry of shapes and colors.

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This picture was taken at the same spot, but looking back along the trail where I had just come from.

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How did this tree manage to grow on this boulder and how is it holding on?

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This gnarly old tree was full of burls.

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More fall colors on the last 3.9 mile section of my hike.

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As I was approaching the end of my hike, the sun began to set behind the mountains.

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Finally back to where I had started my loop.  Only six-tenths of a mile back to my car from here.

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I made it back to my car by 6:45 pm.  There was a fair amount of climbing involved in this hike and I had to endure some pain in my legs, lower back, neck, and shoulders for the last five or so miles, but it was well worth it.  For now, it’s back to the drawing board to plan my next hike.

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