“A well-marked, moderately rugged trail in an old growth forest with lots of variety and unexpected treasures.”
— John Howard
Geological Significance · Lake · Swimming · Wildflowers
All-in-all a great experience. It presented a challenging (but very doable) run for our family of four (ages 9, 17, and 40-something). Lots of rock formations and geological interest, as well as impressive hemlock groves and many other trees. The trees look fairly unassuming at first —just looks like the woods—until you start to notice just how big some of the trees really are. Love that!
Follow the sign into the park from Highway 840. The trailhead is at the end of the parking area. There is a place to sign in at the trailhead. Hours are posted, as well as estimated hike times to various points of interest. No printed maps were being offered when we went, so we used a PDF map combined with a GPS tracking app on our phones. Cell service was available at all times during our run. The trail (officially) begins with the park road, but soon takes a left into the woods before you reach the swimming pool.
The first thing that struck me is how well-marked the trail is. Good thing too. There are many places that, if that wasn't the case, could cause a lot of people to get turned around. The terrain is quite varied, from easy-going down close to the creek to some fairly steep climbs, a bit of bouldering, and a couple water crossings. Wet leaves that fell the night before made a few spots fairly slick. And there are a handful of places where you definitely wouldn't want to slip! Make sure everyone in your group is sure-footed, and trekking poles are recommended.
Flora & Fauna
Several distinct natural communities are found in Blanton Forest. The most diverse of these is the mixed mesophytic forest, one of the most diverse temperate zone forest in the world. This forest typically includes a variety of canopy trees such as sugar maple, beech, tulip poplar, basswood, hemlock, and several species of oaks and magnolias. It is found on moist, rich slopes and in some ravines. The larger ravines, or hollows, support a hemlock-dominated forest with a dense understory of rhododendrons. Drier sites on ridges support chestnut oak dominated forests as well as oak-pine forests. Small open seeps, often called bogs or mires are filled with sphagnum moss, cinnamon ferns and wildflowers. They are located in the heads of some hollows on the south face of the mountain. Watts Creek, a stream within the preserve that supports a population of the federally threatened fish, blackside dace, begins in one of these seeps.
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Photos, Need to Know, Runner Notes, History & Background