Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
The Grapeyard Ridge Trail is a long course that winds through old farm fields along Rhododendron Creek in Greenbrier, then around the base of Mount Winnesoka and over to the Jim Bales homesite on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Starting at the trailhead, the trail climbs away from the road steeply to intersect an old roadbed on the right that leads to the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery.
Beyond its intersection with the cemetery access, the trail follows the roadbed to the top of a low ridge before descending the far side of the ridge to a stream crossing near Rhododendron Creek. Within the next mile, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail crosses Rhododendron Creek five times, all of which entail splashing through shallow water.
Above the last crossing at a point marked only by a large rock in the middle of the trail, a faint access path crosses the stream to the left and proceeds to the Dodgen-Rayfield Cemetery.
Further beyond the last crossing of Rhododendron Creek, the trail turns abruptly away from the stream and winds gently up the flank of James Ridge, reaching the ridgeline at James Gap.
Below James Gap, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail crosses Injun Creek at the site of an old engine ("injun") wreck before heading downstream through the hollow between James Ridge and Grapeyard Ridge. About a half-mile downstream, the trail intersects an access path on the right leading to the Injun Creek Backcountry Campsite (#32).
At its intersection with the access path, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail turns left, crosses a spring branch, then begins an easy climb up Grapeyard Ridge. After a mile of climbing, the trail descends to Grapeyard Branch, near the foundations of a tub mill which once stood by the stream, and Dudley Creek.
Upon crossing Dudley Creek, the trail passes more stone walls, continuing to intersect the Dudley Creek Horse Trail. Here, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail turns sharply left and begins a long climb along the base of Mount Winnesoka on narrow hard-packed clay that is slick in places.
Far after the junction with the horse trail at Dudley Creek, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail passes an old signpost marked “Roaring Fork 1.5 miles.” At the sign, an overgrown manway leads away from the trail to the right.
Soon after crossing the headwaters of Indian Camp Branch, the trail clears a low ridge before descending along Roaring Fork through a farmstead and stone wall to the trail’s end at a junction with the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here
Oak, maple, yellow poplar, dog-hobble, galax, stripped pipsissewa, eastern hemlocks, cucumber trees, Vasey’s trillium, wild geranium, bellwort, and trout-lily constitute the primary forest cover.