Kilmer Old Growth Loop
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Trail is quite possibly the best short hike
in North Carolina. It is considered by many as a jewel in the crown
of the Nantahala
National Forest. It is an easy 2 mile figure 8 loop that travels
through one of the few remaining tracts of virgin hardwood forests
in the Appalachians. 3800 acres of this primeval forest were dedicated
as a living memorial to Joyce Kilmer the poet. He died in World
War One and was best known for his poem "Trees".
you leave the parking lot there is a feeling of anticipation in
the air. Hikers returning from the forest are excited and talking
about their experience. WHEW!! is on of the most often heard expressions.
The trail starts out behind the welcome building. Take the trail
to the left and cross into another world. As the trail climbs through
the damp forest someone can be overheard saying "These trees
ain't that big". Then as the trail starts to level off
a few big trees can be seen. A little further down the trail even
bigger trees come into view. Before long you are in a forest of
amazingly large trees.
trail is a figure 8 loop that has a memorial to Joyce Kilmer in
the center. There are benches here and is a heavily used rest area.
After leaving the memorial the trail enters the upper loop, the
location of some of the largest Poplar trees in this country.
to Joyce Kilmer in the center of the loop.
of these trees are over 100 feet tall and over 400 years old. Walking
through these trees can make one feel small.
"kids" at the most photographed trees in the loop.
hard to imagine a countryside of 200 years ago before the timber
barons brought their axes to the mountains.Trees of this stature
were the rule and not the exception. When the Forest Service purchased
the Slickrock Watershed in 1936 much of the land was laid to waste
by poor logging practices. Timber management and time has restored
the trail winds through this sliver of virgin hardwood the excitement
builds. Soon most of the people in our group would just stop and
stare. The oo's and ahs were getting fewer and the crowd was just
awestruck. Some would trip frequently while staring at the tree
tops while hiking. "What kind of tree is that ?" someone
asks. Hard to tell, the leaves are so high you can't see them and
the bark looks different when it's that old! People that hardly
ever notice trees are turned into instant conservationists! "We
should save more trees!" declares one. "Yeah, we should
write to congress!" says another.
Another giant Tulip Poplar
we pass a trail on the left. Naked Ground trail branches off of
the loop and begins a 2700 foot climb to Naked Ground in the heart
of Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness. Shortly after passing the
trail the loop ends. Now we were a group of exhilarated people exiting
the forest and using expressions like....... WHEW!!!
The excited group as they are leaving the enchanted forest.
Robbinsville, NC take Rt. 143 North towards the Cherohala Skyway.
Aprox 5 - 6 miles past Robbinsville turn right at the sign for state
road 1127 just before the Skyway. There is a large green sign pointing
the way. The parking lot at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Trail
is closed after dark.