Pisgah NF Hard Times Loop

Posted By on March 13, 2020

Pisgah NF Hard Times Loop

6.7 miles; Pisgah National Forest, NC

I’ve been getting most of my local trail info from AllTrails, and this hike was no exception. The write-up suggested going counter-clockwise to “front load the elevation.” But almost the entire hike was on gently-graded hard-packed gravel forest roads, so even though the first 2-3 miles were uphill, it wasn’t bad at all. Also, I didn’t realize it before I started out, but almost half of the hike was on the North Carolina Arboretum.

Bent Creek

I parked at the Hard Times Trailhead, and the parking area was almost full when I got there around noon on a weekday. Many hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners. Again, not so many it felt crowded, but enough to keep the bears away. I think. I hope. (Really gotta order some bear spray.) I started out by crossing Bent Creek. On a bridge. And honestly? Doesn’t look so Bent here.

North Carolina Arboretum

Just past the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Mountains to Sea Trail, at about the 4-mile mark, I started noticing a large chain-link fence off to my left in the woods. “Huh. Wonder what’s up with that?” I thought to myself. Well what’s up with it is that it encloses the property of the North Carolina Arboretum. There was a big locked gate across the road, but a smaller, human-sized gate off to one side was open.

Another Bridge

After my Mullinax experience, I’m a bit leery of hikes which have water crossings, which this one did, a number of them. But there were thankfully bridges at every one. Another 100% dryer experience than Mullinax!

Native Azalea Repository

The Arboretum portion of the hike was very nice. I didn’t have to follow the road the entire way—the Bent Creek Trail had a long stretch of “foot travel only” that hugged the bank of the creek and was just lovely. In fact, I’m very glad I took the unnamed poster’s advice about doing this hike counter-clockwise, because the nice Arboretum part was saved till last. And a native azalea repository! I must make a note to come visit when they’re all in bloom.

Find out more about Pisgah National Forest from the National Park Service website. Find out more about the North Carolina Arboretum from their website. And as always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

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