China Creek / Thunderhole Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,922' 586 m
Descent: -1,913' -583 m
High: 3,855' 1,175 m
Low: 2,054' 626 m
GradeAvg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 42% (23°)
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“A burly backcountry loop taking you down the rabbit hole and into a primordial landscape.”— Eric Heistand
NOTE: The China Creek Trail will be an overgrown jungle of hate in the middle of summer. Bring your machete or wait until fall, winter, or early spring.
IMPORTANT: The China Creek Trail is easy to lose here due to the informal climbers trails in the area. In general, you are looking for a faint trail that is heading down and SW. Keep your eyes peeled and it will all likely work out for you. You can also use the Trail Run Project mobile app to help find your way.
Continue downhill, passing near a subdivision and an old dumping grounds. Get ready to to leave civilization behind. Down, down, down, you go. You'll cross China Creek multiple times and eventually have it as a beautiful and bubbly companion in the steep ravine alongside your trail. Enjoy the cascades and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. After several miles of descending, be on the lookout for a trail that will join you from the right. This is Thunderhole Trail and your ticket home. If you decide to turn righ here at this point, your loop will be approximately 5 miles. But since you're finally down in the beautiful valley, you should really keep running down on the China Camp Trail and enjoy the best part!
Soon after the junction between China Creek and Thunderhole, the trail widens and becomes an old roadbed. The downhill grade is moderate and the scenery is to die for. Within a mile, you can cross the creek to the left and join up with the gravel Globe Road (FS 1367). Alternatively, you can stay to the right of the creek and run an additional 2+ miles and join up with the Globe Road at a much lower point.
Retrace your route back to the China Creek/Thunderhole Trail intersection. Head up the beautifully regraded Thunderhole Trail. 1.5 miles of uphill chugging will bring you back to civilization. The large homes along the rim are your sure sign that you are about to enter a new world. Assuming your car is parked at the 221 rest area, the most aesthetic route to complete your loop is to take the crushed gravel horse trail that begins just a few yards away from the trail kiosk. Follow this carriage trail away from the equestrian complex. Just before reaching a tunnel, get off the path and onto HWY 221. Less than 1/2 mile of road running will deposit you back at your car.
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Land Manager: Blue Ridge Parkway