- Sports and Recreation
Blue Ridge Parkway - Rattlesnake Lodge Trail
Hikes Near Asheville
The views and beauty are breathtaking.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long. As such, there are a lot of opportunities to get your fill of nature.
Hiking the Mountains Near Asheville
I will focus on a hike I did near Asheville, at milepost 374.4, right by Tanbark Tunnel. You can get there easily from Weaverville, NC via Ox Creek Road. Turn left onto the Parkway and stop just before Tanbark Tunnel. You can park on either side, with the trail on the north side of the road.
It’s an out-and-back trail, and is 2.2 miles long. Round-trip it is 4.4 miles – a good hike! It goes from the ruins of the Rattlesnake Lodge site to Ox Creek Road. If you start out from the Parkway (you can also start from Ox Creek Road going in the opposite direction), you’ll head mostly north.
It'll take you about 2.5 hours to complete the trail. It took me longer because I was caught up taking so many photographs!
Have you ever hiked a trail on the Parkway?
Find More Trails on the Parkway
The Trail: Rattlesnake Lodge to Ox Creek Road
As you start out, a cascading stream greets you. Almost immediately, you’ll come to a fork. Take the left trail. You’ll start an ascent, but it’s not too steep.
Once you’ve traveled about ½ mile, you’ll come to the old, historic Rattlesnake Lodge site. The old rock walls and remnants of the old buildings are striking.
As you finish ascending, you’ll come to a “T”. Go left and you’ll head toward the main building remnants of the Rattlesnake Lodge. You’ll also be on the Mountains to Sea Trail.
The flora and fauna are quite diverse. In the spring and summer, hundreds of varieties of wildflowers bloom. Rhododendron, mountain laurel, oak, maple and other sorts of shrubs and trees abound on the trail.
Because the area is moist and humid, a number of varieties of mushrooms like to grow.
As you continue on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), you’ll notice that it smoothes out after Rattlesnake Lodge. It’s a well-traveled trail. Along the way on your left, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful vistas and valleys overlooking the Haw Creek community.
As you start nearing Ox Creek Road, you’ll start a gradual descent. You know you’re getting close when the descent turns into switchbacks. At the end of the switchbacks, you’ll see another fork. Head right toward the Ox Creek parking lot.
The parking lot will be your midpoint.
You’ll feel the ascent in your legs as you climb back up the mountain, but if you’re in reasonable shape, it won’t be bad at all. You’ll get to backtrack through the lush forest, rocky outcroppings; you’ll see once again all the beautiful plants, flowers and even animals that greeted you the first time through.
Blue Ridge Parkway at Ox Creek Road
More About Rattlesnake Lodge
Dr. Chase Ambler owned the lodge in the early 1900s. He had it built between 1903 and 1904 as a vacation home and would bring his family there during the breezy, mild North Carolina summers. As soon as school would let out, the Ambler family would stay at the lodge until it was time for the children to go back to school.
Workers used rocks and trees from the area to construct the buildings, furniture and other items. The larger logs on the property were made from chestnut.
This homestead reflected the needs and likes of the family. It had a swimming pool, tennis courts, a number of guest bedrooms, a large dining room, cabins for caretakers, a barn and stables. It also had a large yard with lush gardens for everyone to enjoy.
Dr. Ambler sold the property in 1920. Only a short time later, in 1926, it burned down, most likely due to a lightning strike.
Dr. Ambler loved the outdoors. He eventually helped create the southern chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, that later became the Carolina Mountain Club. The CMC maintains the Mountains to Sea Trail near Asheville.
More About the Mountains to Sea Trail
The idea for the trail came about in the 1970s. Right now, it’s over 400 miles in length, extending through North Carolina and parts of Tennessee.
The trail is still under progress, however. When it’s finished, it will stretch nearly 1000 miles, starting at Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee all the way out to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast of North Carolina.
People who enjoy hiking – both for short hikes and longer backpacking trips – will have a lot of fun exploring the length of the MST. Even though all parts of the trail are not finished, hikers can still go on back roads and other paths to complete their through-trek of the MST.
Different jurisdictions maintain the trail. As mentioned above, near the Asheville section of the trail, the Carolina Mountain Club maintains the trail and Rattlesnake Lodge.
Even if you're going on a short hike, it's important to stay safe.
In the summertime – when I hiked this trail – it can get quite hot. Bring plenty of water. You must not drink from the streams.
Please be a good steward to the forest. Pack out what you bring in.
Be prepared for changes in weather. Bring rain gear or clothes to layer on, in case the temperature drops. For this particular trail, you’ll be at or around 4400 ft. above sea level.
Wear good shoes. The trails get rocky and difficult to maneuver at times. It’s best to have a sturdy pair of shoes.
Stay on the trail. It’s sometimes tempting to bushwhack – especially through the switchbacks – but it contributes to erosion and to the destruction of fragile plants.
For emergencies out on the Parkway, call 1-800-PARKWATCH.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun