The Doughton Park area of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, located roughly between Mileposts 238 and 245, is best known for the high meadow views along Bluff Mountain and perhaps also the pink sunsets from Bluffs Lodge. But this area of the Parkway has some 30 miles of hiking trails, most of them coursing through the backcountry 1,500 feet below the Blue Ridge Parkway in the dense woodlands of Basin Creek Cove.
If you’re up for some exercise and some challenging stream crossings (34 total at last count), check out the Basin Creek Trail, a 10-mile roundtrip trek to the isolated Caudill Cabin, the only remaining intact structure of the Basin Creek Cove community that thrived here at the turn of the last century. Log entries at the cabin, which is five miles in, express visitors’ sentiments on the hike, ranging from “brutal” to “beautiful.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to call this trek brutal. It climbs about 500 feet but gently for the most part over the course of five miles. The most challenging part and what makes this trek take about 6 hours are the multiple stream crossings. Depending on how wet the season is when you visit, expect upwards of 30 or more. Only one crossing has a bridge. For the others, be prepared to wade or pick your way across slippery rocks.
It’s worth it, however. Along the way are two scenic waterfalls and countless remnants of the Appalachian community that once existed here (including leftover foundations, chimneys, millstones, evidence of cleared pastures, and gravestones). You can read more about the hike in my upcoming book Moon Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Handbook, which will be published in Spring 2009. Look for it at www.moon.com or your favorite bookstore.