There aren't any great views or waterfalls on this loop hike. But if your looking for solitude, and a great workout, this is the circuit for you. With an initial climb up Narrow Back Mountain, then a long steep ascent of Sand Spring Mountain, this hike is sure to get your heart pumping.
The hike start point, and yellow blazed Tillman Trail (439), is directly across Big Run from the small parking area. Cross Big Run and start along the yellow blazed trail, which initially passes through a section of old growth forest, before turning left and climbing steeply up a small ravine. After 0.4 miles, and at the top of the ravine, cross an unmarked trail. From this point the trail will continue to climb Narrow Back Mountain along a spur, then make two quick switchbacks before reaching the ridge and a forestry access road in another 0.5 miles.
At the ridge turn left on the access road towards the Cookie Trail (432A). In 0.2 miles pass around the back of a transmission tower and start down the yellow blazed Cookie Trail. 1.0 miles past the transmission tower the trail will veer left downhill, before arriving at the intersection of the Festival (432B) and Narrowback (432) trails. Turn left downhill on the yellow blazed Narrowback Trail and shortly arrive at a split in the trail. Stay right downhill on the yellow blazed trail as it descends the mountain for 0.4 miles, crosses a small wooded footbridge, then in another 0.1 miles ends at the Narrowback Trail parking area.
Note: The Sand Springs Trail follows an old forestry road and heads steeply uphill without any switchbacks. Make sure to bring plenty of water and a hat on warmer days. Also, the trail is both blue blazed and marked with yellow diamonds in places.
Start up the blue blazed Springs Trail passing a closed forestry gate, then in 1.0 miles pass two campsites. The trail will continue steeply uphill for another 1.8 miles before passing a pond, and in another 0.2 miles entering a clearing and summit of Sand Spring Mountain. The Timber Ridge Trail (431) junction is 25 yards after re-entering the forest on the other side of the clearing.
Turn left downhill on the yellow blazed Timber Ridge Trail as it descends Hearthstone Ridge for 3.7 miles where it crosses a small stream near the valley floor. Cross the stream and shortly arrive at a split in the trail. Stay left, and in 100 yards the Timber Ridge Trail ends at FDR101. Turn right on FDR101 and walk the remaining 0.3 miles back to the Tillman Trail parking area on the left.
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Reviews For The Sand Spring Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
I had wanted to do this hike for quite a while, since makes a good test run for an out-and-back to Reddish Knob. Having completed this loop, I am now confident I could return and do a Reddish Knob dayhike on the Sand Springs/Timber Ridge Trails. (Unfortunately, the Wolf Ridge Trail doesnít appear to have roadside parking.)
The hike was a good workout, but the grades arenít nearly as tough as the nearby Oak Knob loop at Hone Quarry that this site rates lower in difficulty. (Though the Sand Spring loop is longer, the uphill grade here averages 10% and doesnít exceed 16%. I averaged an 18% uphill up the shorter Pond Knob Trail over in Hone Quarry, with a top uphill grade of 23% and a downhill on the Meadow Knob trail of 27%.)
Note that the Tillman Trail now has views, though for an unfortunate reason. A section of the trail between 0.4 miles and the top of Narrowback Mountain has been clear cut, with the Tillman Trail forming part of the southern boundary of the cut. The cut does not extend to the top of the mountain.
A nice aspect to this loop is the fact that there are eight geocaches within 20 yards of the trail and several others a little further away. I found each and was the first finder in nearly two years of a cache near the top of Sand Spring Mountain.
My hike took 5.5 hours, including cache searches, but I did not stop for lunch.
The bluets and dwarf irises were blooming along the trail, and a large stand of mountain laurel is getting ready to pop on the Timber Ridge Trail. I look forward to getting back out there and making it all the way to the top of Reddish Knob.