October 30, 2013 – Laurel Falls Trail is an easy 1.3 miles and I planned my trek during the Fall when the leaves were changing. It is listed as a trail frequented by bears, so I imagine that’s one reason for the “No Pets” restriction. But luckily we saw no bears during this trip or this little doggy could have been a little snack for them and possibly its reading-challenged owner as the main course. The trail brochure tells about a bear that got too familiar with people food from scraps left alongside the trail. This trumped his natural fear of humans and the bear eventually had to be killed when he bit a hiker. I wish more people would think about the consequences of their actions, if not to themselves, then to the native inhabitants of the natural areas they love to visit.
Here’s the start of the trail – it is paved and the incline increases, but I didn’t find it difficult, and it was certainly well worth it.
The beautiful scenery along the way encouraged me to go slow and take my time as I stopped to view the many vistas providing glimpses of the colorful mountains along the way. There are so many trees, it’s not easy to get a clear view of the mountains, but every once in a while, you can get a peek at the peaks.
There are a variety of trees all along the trail, ranging from pine oaks, maples, dogwoods and tuliptrees, each showing off fabulously in their own time and way.
I think the crimson maples were my favorite this day.
There are markers that you can follow with the trail map that tells about the differences you’ll see as you climb in elevation. This one talks about the persistence of the lichen on the rock faces who have found a way to cope with the harsh weather and resist the wind. I thought it was interesting that the lichen will eventually destroy its host rock by secreting acids that etch the rock’s surface away. Another example that, like water, seems much softer than the seeming hardiness of rock and mountains, but with persistence will have its own way. Nature continues to just blow my mind!
I tell ya, it was hard to keep walking when there were so many breathtaking views along the way to simply stop and marvel at.
But I finally made it to the main attraction and was happy to stay a while and soak it all in.
This girl sitting on the edge where the water continues down the mountain made me pretty nervous, though. It doesn’t look like it here, but the rocks are pretty slippery. I appreciate a rare view as much as anyone, but I wouldn’t have wanted to take this natural slide down the mountainside!
A little video – because sometimes static pictures are just not enough and you need to hear the soothing sounds to fully appreciate the whole picture.
The trail continues from here and the brochure says in another 1/2 mile there is a majestic virgin hardwood forest. But the trail from here is not paved and since it’s steeper and harder and I didn’t bring my hiking stick, I’ll save that one for next time.
As much as I appreciated the Fall display, the trail got its name from the numerous Mountain Laurel trees and the trail brochure says they turn the woods and hillsides pink or white in early summer, so I plan a return visit then – with my hiking stick for further exploration!
More Laurel Falls links:
Hiking in the Smokies
All Trails (with reviews from other hikers)