Cool & wet: NetFlix or TrailFix?

Still smiling, after nine hours on a rainy trail.

Cool, cloudy, chance of rain. Some people see that as a forecast for a Netflix weekend. We see it as a trail fix weekend.
Three weeks ago, we spent a cool, wet Sunday hiking 12 miles on the Tanawha Trail at the base of Grandfather Mountain. Perhaps a little wetter than we would have preferred, but one thing is for sure: for the 25 or so folks on the hike, it was one memorable day.
The forecast for this weekend isn’t quite as wet. It is, however, supposed to be cool, with mountain temperatures expected to stay in the 60s. A good weekend to kick off your fall hiking season.
Where might I kick it off? you inquire.
Here are five hikes we especially like on cool, wet days. Included are links where you can find more information on how to plan and execute your hike.

  1. Price Lake Loop, 2.7 miles. Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 297. This easy hike hugs the lake on a rhododendron-lined trail. Even if you can’t see Grandfather Mountain (which you can on a clear day), the fog-shrouded lake is a nice treat. More info here.
  2. Cataloochee Valley, various lengths. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When clouds settle into the valley, the sense of isolation felt this long-abandoned community must have felt is underscored. Hike among the buildings remaining from the valley’s pre-park days — the church, the school, various homes — or do any number of circuit hikes, including a 9.5-mile hike including the Rough Fork, Caldwell Fork and Big Fork Ridge trails. More info here.
  3. Linville Gorge (east rim),14.1 miles (shorter options available). Pisgah National Forest near Linville. Descending into the gorge on a rainy day can be scary — and dangerous. But stick to the east rim between Table Rock and Shortoff Mountain and you’ll get a sense of the foreboding below, but on a relatively flat stretch of trail. More info here.
  4. Schoolhouse Ridge, Wilson Creek, 5.6-mile loop, Pisgah National Forest near Mortimer. Unless you’re into multiple creek crossings with moving water above your knees, Wilson Creek is an area to avoid when it rains — with the exception of Schoolhouse Ridge. There’s water and a waterfall at the trailhead, but from there the trail takes the high road, climbing through a drainage, returning along Schoolhouse Ridge. More info here.
  5. Basin Cove, 10-18 miles, Doughton Park, Blue Ridge Parkway. The hard-core turn this climb from the base of Doughton Park to the top and back into an 18-mile ordeal. The soft-core opt for the 10-mile out-and-back to the Caudil Cabin along a trail that follows Basin Creek the entire way. Unless the rain is torrential, the creek handles water well, and the climb through rocks and pines is especially memorable in the rain. More info here.

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