“A 3.0 mile loop at Buffalo Creek Park with lots of climbing and fast, flowing descents.
— CBraund Braund
Heading west from Charlotte and the flat piedmont, the trails in Lake Lure offer the first opportunity for a mountain experience that will challenge your fitness and offer great views and varied terrain. The HHT trail is the first loop at Buffalo Creek Park and provides a strong shot of climbing without harsh technical difficulty. Its smooth and flowing and popular with hikers and trail runners.
It will soon be extended by 7-10 miles of trail through rugged back country, ascending another 2,000 feet to reach ridgelines and scenic viewpoints. The trail will connect with Chimney Rock State Park on the north side of Rumbling Bald Mountain, itself a popular destination for climbers and boulders. A bike-accessible cirque of the entire northern valley is planned, along with an extended through-hiking experience that circumnavigates Lake Lure in a 30-40 mile trail that summits several surrounding peaks.
Riders travel in opposite directions according to the day of the week (posted at an intersection).
Need to Know
The public trailhead has room for 5-6 vehicles and is an interim facility. Work is underway to build a large parking area on an adjacent acre of land. Overflow parking is OK along Buffalo Creek Road.
There are two trailheads: the northern, public parking area on Buffalo Creek Road and a southern parking area inside the Rumbling Bald Resort. These are connected by a 1/3 mile flat pathway that follows Buffalo Creek. Midway between is a bridge and the start of the trail.
After a short distance, the trail crosses a small footbridge and reaches a fork that starts and finishes the loop. From here, riders will travel in the opposite direction of those on foot. A sign indicates the directions which reverse daily.
In either direction, the trail has three sections: The Head, the Heart and the Tail (HHT). After a brief warmup, a stout climb gets you 500 feet up the mountain, but intermediate descents mean you earn about 1,000 feet of total climbing. Then there's a smooth traverse in the middle section that takes you through a large boulder field that attracts climbers and the rare Green Salamander. You then finish with a fast, flowing descent on banked switchbacks. The trail has an average grade of 9%, with short sections of 15%-20%.
History & Background
This is the first mountain bike trail in Lake Lure and Rutherford County, an area surrounded by beautiful mountains that have been largely inaccessible. That is changing with expansion of public lands, increased land conservation and development of the area's recreational amenities. Buffalo Creek Park is on 200 acres acquired and conserved by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Town of Lake Lure. The trails have been machine-built by Trail Dynamics of Pisgah Forest, funded by grants from the NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund and the federal Recreational Trails Program. Local volunteers maintain the trail system. Another 1300 acres lie to the west and the next phase of trailbuilding will add 7-10 more miles of singletrack.
The trail names at Buffalo Creek Park are a nod to the backwoods distillery heritage in Rutherford County and southern Appalachia that is experiencing a rebirth today.