Just 5 minutes from Hot Springs and the cabins is a hidden gem of a hiking opportunity. The Spring Creek Nature Trail is one of two hiking loops that begin from the parking area for the Rocky Bluff Campgrounds, and of the two, it is our family’s favorite. It is much less traveled than the Laurel River Trail but holds much of the same allure; namely, water!
Time to hike the loop: 45 minutes to one hour at a consistent moderate pace
Difficulty: Somewhat difficult. Some large high steps and some muddy areas, especially after rain. Our 3 year old can hike it by herself, but some families may wait until kids are 5 or older.
Sights and Attractions: You will hike downhill 5-10 minutes through lovely shaded forest before reaching Spring Creek. There are a few fantastic spots along the creek to play with kids (or adults!) and take a dip. Small sandy “beaches” are fun for sand play and river rocks are great for stacking rock balances and such. Spring Creek is quite clean, unlike the nearby French Broad River, so play without concern! We find Chantrelle and Lactarius mushrooms along this hike in July-September, along with many beautiful (and sometimes edible!) plants I will blog about soon.
Season to hike: Spring, summer, and fall. The hike is largely on an east/northeast facing bank and gets morning to midday sun but in winter will be shady and slippery.
Getting there: Take 209 out of Hot Springs until you see a large National Forest sign on the left for Rocky Bluff Campground. Park just off the road in front of the gate if it is closed, or drive in if open (Memorial Day through Labor Day). If you drive in, the parking will be on your left. Walk around the driving loop (it is a short loop) until you see the sign I have pictured below. There are two entrances to the loop, but this is the easiest to find and also it is easiest to follow the path when hiking from this entrance.
Enjoy and happy hiking!