Laurel River Trail
At A Glance
3.6 mi one-way
Steepness: Climbs Gently
Tread Condition: Some Obstacles
Blaze Color: Yellow
Trail Number: 310
This trail follows Big Laurel Creek through a scenic gorge to its junction with the French Broad river at the old logging ghost town of Runion. This trail is especially nice in early spring when there are many wildflowers blooming along the path and riverbanks, and when the water levels are low and the creek runs clear. The creek is quite large by the time it enters the gorge - almost a river, perhaps explaining the trail's confusing name - and its popularity with boaters and fishermen.
The trail is an old railroad bed which used to carry logs to the Runion sawmill in the 1920's, and as such, is mostly level. However, it is quite rocky and rooty in places, with at least one washout that will probably require a carry across.
A few small streams flow across the trail at various points, and bluffs tower over the river making the valley narrow and enclosed with precipitous slopes on either side. Huge boulders choke the gorge forming raging rapids in places, and a few deep holes invite strong swimmers to take the plunge in warm weather. The trail nears its end at the former logging town of Runion. In its heyday, Runion was home to more than 1,000 people. Brick chimneys and crumbling foundations still remain - one of the few "ghost towns" in North Carolina.
The trail crosses the railroad at the confluence of the Big Laurel and French Broad, and ends on the other side of the tracks at a tranquil riverside flat. Trespassing on railroad property is dangerous, so just follow the trail straight across (after looking and listening for trains - this is an active line!) and do not attempt to cross Big Laurel Creek on the railroad bridge like some have in the past.
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