Laurel River Trail

At A Glance


3.6 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 3.6
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.


Trailhead Parking

This trail is located in the Hot Springs area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Hot Springs trails list page.


Download GPS Data

Click routes, trails, or points on the map to download them (on the GPS Data tab).

More information...



Average Rating: 3.2 (rated 33 times)

Rate It Now:


Dick Nelson said: The people you meet are friendly. The creek is beautiful. The trail is flat. The bluffs are are breathtaking. But the bears, lions, swamp raccoons and don't forget the aligators are all very very dangerous. So, stay away from this lovely hike. Our favorite hiking spot in WNC.

Saturday, September 22 2018 4:24pm

Susie said: This is my second time on this trail and it is beautiful. A nice easy walk through a beautiful gorge full of mountain laurel. Our dog loves it. Lots of places to get in the creek to cool off too! Friendly people and dogs on the trail and a few fishermen. Did not see a single piece of trash. People can be responsible and pet owners as well! We didn’t make it to the end but one of these days we will!

Sunday, February 25 2018 1:09am
Add a Comment

Your email address will not be displayed, is kept completely private, and is only used to fight comment spam.

All fields are required.