We were looking for a fairly easy hike to do because I have a 5K tomorrow (!!) and I didn’t want to wear my legs out and render myself too sore to train for that. This was the PERFECT hike for just that situation. The Pink Beds Loop Trail is located in the Pisgah National Forest, not too far from Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock near Brevard, NC.
I’d read the synopsis on HikeWNC.info, so I had a good idea of the environment(s) we’d be traversing. Their site describes taking the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, so we’d originally planned to do that, but we happened upon a very nice man in the parking lot (who, coincidentally, went to Wingate University, where Joey and I went and where Joey currently teaches!) who’d done the hike many times and told us that we’d want to take it clockwise to have a less strenuous trip. I was all about that since I was worried about my legs.
We began the path (which was fairly well-blazed with orange rectangles), and walked for a short stretch through several fantastic open meadows:
until we reached the fork that actually began the loop. We took off to the left to begin our clockwise trip, which was clearly a good decision as a fair portion of the trail was uphill at that point (although only gently), so it was nice to get that out of the way up front. Thick trees formed a canopy over us, and I honestly felt like I was in some kind of fairytale…just waiting to glimpse a unicorn around the next corner or something.
We reached the Barrett Branch trail relatively quickly; it’s a shortcut that cuts across the loop in the event that you don’t want to do the entire five plus miles. However, if you turn off to the left, you’ll have a great payoff after about a mile when you reach a beautiful waterfall. Unfortunately, I read the online synopsis wrong and thought the waterfall was only 0.3 miles in, so we got frustrated and turned around before we reached it. We’re going to do this one again in two weeks, so we’ll follow it all the way next time. One complaint, though; the signage indicated that there would be blue blazes along the Barrett Branch trail, and we didn’t see ANY blazes at all; the path was well-established, so we weren’t concerned that we were getting off the trail, but it was a little irritating not to have it confirmed periodically that we were on the right track.
Back on the Pink Beds Loop, we crossed the South Fork Mills River and its tributaries many times. One crossing required a rock hop (which was an adventure for our dog, and to our surprise, she did a great job). The rocks were large, flat, and sturdy, so I wasn’t too concerned about making it across.
We also had to traverse this log bridge, which thankfully had a handrail. It was also wide and sturdy, but I was rather nervous (because of the Lupron clumsiness), so I took small steps to avoid pitching myself face-first into the stream.
I was amazed at how clear the water was; I wish I’d dipped my hand in to see how cold it was too. We saw several minnows and one larger fish that we thought may have been a trout. Thankfully, Indy was more interested in drinking the water than chasing any of the fish.
We passed through several boggy areas (but none that made the path muddy), and the trail was EXTREMELY rooty for much of the second half. I never tripped, but I found myself having to look down a lot to make sure I wouldn’t, and that took away from getting to pay attention to the scenery.
The last mile or so was done over impressive foot bridges, which the website says were built in 2013; it almost felt like we were walking on a greenway in Charlotte with how well-made they were. They passed over large swathes of grass and more bogs and streams, and eventually we made our way back to the fork where we began.
Our entire hike was exactly 6.2 miles; I imagine we added another .6 or .7 by going down the Barrett Branch trail a ways, so I’d say the loop is probably 5 and a half miles or so (rather than the 5.1 that the website indicates).
I think this is the most beautiful hike we’ve ever done, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a long, yet undemanding hike. My legs weren’t very sore the next day, and I was able to get out and train for my 5K this week without a problem.
I cannot wait to get out there and do this one again!