A major trail re-construction and re-location project at Graveyard Fields will eliminate erosion, protect sensitive plant habitats, re-build a bridge washed out by the storms of September 2004, and provide a generally more pleasant hiking experience to visitors of one of Western North Carolina’s most popular recreation areas.
The relocated trails are quite a distance from the ones we’ve been enjoying for years! This has dramatically altered the visitor experience, but in a good way. In addition to the relocated portion of trail, the rest of the trails in the area are receiving much-needed drainage and rock work. Muddy feet used to be a major part of hiking here, but this has been largely eliminated.
The trail to Second Falls has been re-cut to the top of the big staircase, and a new, much-needed bridge was built across the small branch on the way.
Those familiar with the Graveyard Fields loop trail will remember that, after descending on a paved trail to the first bridge across the Yellowstone Prong stream, the loop trail used to climb a small hill, on an extremely unstable and eroded slope. No longer! The entire first part of the trail has been re-located to higher ground. This will eliminate one of the most eroded sections of trail.
Beyond that, the trail has been relocated above the flats near the river. The trail used to descend over a tricky, exposed rock, then come out by the stream in a very scenic, yet eroded, flat area, where a large oak tree leans out over the river. The re-route bears right just before the rock, and stays away from the flats near the stream. A split-rail fence has been installed along this first section of the trail to allow for rehabilitation of that area. A short trail segment still leads to the left down to the most popular spot on the creek, but another split-rail fence keeps visitors away from the oak tree. This long re-route has several neat boardwalks along its length.
Update March 2007: Further along, the trail splits, and the portion leading left goes back to the parking area to complete the loop. Another boardwalk and a new bridge (suitable for very heavy traffic) have been built.
Heading up to Upper Falls, there is another boardwalk, and then the trail joins back with the old trail just past what used to be a very wet section. From here, the original path is followed, but it has been re-worked as well – save for one section where the trail disappears into a foot-deep pool in the creek. Elsewhere, rock steps have been installed along its length.
You can find more photos of the new trail in the Graveyard Fields Image Gallery.