“Jefferson National Forest at its finest!
— Allan Lee
These trails are open year-round and are also open to horses and hikers alike.
Need to Know
Parking is at the trailhead on Rowland Creek Lane. Expect to encounter horses on Rowland Creek Trail #164
in particular. This loop can be potentially connected to Iron Mountain Trail
to add an extra 4 miles. Probably the easiest way of extending this loop is to start at a different trailhead point. Rather than park by Rowland Creek Trail #164
, park at the pull off on Whitetop Rd where there is a signpost for Iron Mountain Trail
. From there it is about 2 miles to the FR84 itself. If Iron Mountain Trail
is taken here, a connector spur at 2 miles will come out on FR84. Turn left following the road a short way to reach the trailhead for Jerry's Creek #165
. If the loop is started at this point, upon closing the main loop, a right turn onto FR84 after completing Old 84 Trail
and following the forest service road will reach the exit of the Wilderness area at Skulls Gap. Turning left here on the main road (Whitetop Rd) with a short steep climb uphill will soon reach the start point again.
The trailhead is located on the right hand side of Rowland Creek Lane beyond a handful of houses. Look out for Jerry's Creek #165
coming in from the right. Head a little up the road until you see a rather hidden sign for Rowland Creek Trail #164
. The sign indicates that it is 4.1 miles to reach Old 84 Trail
This loop starts out pretty smooth on Rowland Creek Trail #164
. The trail itself is quite narrow and grassy to begin with before beginning a brutal climb. Note there are some potentially muddy sections to contend with here as there are a few minor stream crossings to contend with and since this trail is often frequented by horses.
Around a mile in, stop and view a beautiful 100-foot cascade with an awesome swimming hole. This section is particularly narrow. Strap in to continue climbing. The climb is a steep relentless pull straight up with no switchbacks or curves to ease the pain. Rowland Creek Trail #164
ends at a barrier at the top of this climb. Turn right here to join a wide grassy path.
Just before the trail appears to head straight on a forest service road which itself bears to the right, look out for the signpost. It does have an arrow designating that Old 84 Trail
is off to your right but the marking is on the reverse of the signpost so can easily be missed. Old 84 Trail
is actually a grassy narrow trail off to your right and not particularly obvious. In fact, the only real indication that it is a bona fide trail is that you'll see some orange blazes on the trees by its start. These can be found along the whole of the trail but are ad hoc in frequency.
Old 84 Trail
widens out to a grassy and stony old fire road. It winds in and out following the curve of the mountain side for about 4.5 miles. There are glimpses of views. There are some slight inclines along the route but the ride should be easygoing. The last of the winding sections meets Jerry's Creek #165
at another barrier to your right.
Jerry's Creek #165
is a rowdy descent with a steep drop-off to a creek bed on one side. The path is not just narrow but falls away to a sharp drop. This short but highly technical descent is one of the best in Jefferson National Forest. After crossing the creek, continue to climb for a short while. After the creek, the trail actually widens out to more of a old fire road that is similar to Old 84 Trail
in that it skirts around the mountain side. The terrain is more pleasant as the vegetation is less thick so there is more natural light. The climb also rewards with more glimpses of views. After the climb, enjoy a smooth descent back to the Forest Service road where you began.