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Hiker Comments for the Laurel Fork Hike - 1 to 15 of 15   
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By: Kevin Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 3, 2018
We hiked this circuit along with the Slabcamp/Locust Spring circuit: five experienced hikers with two tents and two hammocks. Arrived Friday evening at the picnic area, which has tables and fire rings and a unisex toilet and could be used for camping for late arrivals. We took the Buck Run trail down to the campsites on Laurel Fork. The trail was easy to follow even in failing light and we made good time to the campsites. We took the smaller site up from Laurel Fork (a SAWtrails crew had the water-side site), which was level and had plenty of room for our tents and hammocks and has a very nice, tall fire ring and rocks placed for seats. Next morning, we ascended the Locust Spring trail, another nice walk in the woods beside a stream, and then took FS106 down to Bearwallow. Bearwallow is marked from FS106 but the trail isn't readily discernible once you get on the old forest road. Be careful not to miss the trail as it veers off to the right from the old road. Otherwise, the trail is easy to follow as it descends to Bearwallow and follows the stream down to Laurel Fork. There are plenty of spots to stop for a meal break and opportunities to refill water bottles/hydration systems. We carried Aquamira drops and a Sawyer Squeeze system that covered our needs. The Laurel Fork trail from south to north is a challenge. Although the trail stays very close to Laurel Fork (which is a beautiful wide and comparatively shallow stream), it does disappear on occasion. After a very wet July, there were numerous patches of mud/bog and a number of spots where the trail has eroded enough that there is only a wet shelf of dirt a foot wide ten feet above the run. Be careful. The article for this hike is accurate in stating that the trail is harder to follow past the campsite. We knew our pace but even so got fooled when we came to a tripod of logs topped by a stone (looking like a small stool) and took that as the place to cross to the right bank, even though it was way too early. Turns out it was a warning not to go further on what looks like the trail but was only a spur into a rhododendron patch suitable for one-tent camping. The trail actually veered off the left before that patch, through a fern field, and across a gully, although there was no trace of the trail until we got to higher ground across the gully. Further up, the trail (unmarked) follows a seriously steep, rocky shore that can be treacherous. An option is to cross the run to a small island and navigate past a huge fallen tree to re-cross and climb the tall bank back on the left side. Otherwise, take it slow and easy on the rocks. Eventually, we came to a sizable cairn where the trail crosses Laurel Fork into the rhododendrons (must be spectacular in spring!) to intersect with the Christian Run trail and leads back to the campsites. (We discourage anyone from attempting the Slabcamp Run trail that also intersects here - it's a mess). Overall, a beautiful spot but don't look for an easy time on the Laurel Fork portion. Nonetheless, there were plenty of times when we stopped just to appreciate the beauty of the woods and streams. If you like solitude, creeks, deep forest, and a bit of a challenge, this is a fine circuit.

By: Steve O. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 5, 2015
We did a shorter variation of the hike in the guide over Labor Day weekend. Day 1 we hiked in on the Buck Run trail and stayed at the large campsite at the base of Locust Spring run. Beautiful site right on the river! Day 2 we did a day hike down Laurel Fork and up Cold Spring Run and back down Christian run and back to camp. Some good campsites along Laurel Fork and great fishing holes. Too bad I didn't bring my fishing pole. Warning, the Cold Spring and Christian Run trails were dense in stinging nettles. Ouch. They can be easily removed with the swipe of your walking stick but this made the hike less enjoyable and much harder than it would have otherwise been. I cleared as much of the trail as I could which took time. At the top of Cold Spring Run trail we hiked along a ridge that would have provided awesome views if the leaves on the trees weren't there. Should do this hike in the fall or winter for the views. The large meadow at the intersection of Cold Spring and Christian Run was absolutely spectacular bursting in yellows and full of honey bees. Day 3 we hiked out Locust Spring Run trail back to the parking area. The bottom half of the trail was filled with nettles. The upper half was spectacular in the pine forests. Overall the entire weekend we only saw one other couple. Despite some poor trail conditions (downed trees, nettles), this hike was awesome and highly recommended. We removed some trash we found at our campsite but otherwise it was cleaner than some sites we've been to. If you like solitude in a diverse and spectacular natural setting, give this hike a try.

By: Chill Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 26, 2014
I've hiked this area numerous times, although always skipped this hike because the lack of views and my choice of hiking partners. Well, this weekend I was able to convince someone they didn't need huge views to have a rewarding trip, and not long into the hike, he fully agreed.

First thing is first - Wilderness Areas: Wilderness areas are not national parks or national forests. Here's their legal definition: "A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Therefore blazed trails are really, really rare. These areas aren't for you every day hiker but one who is prepared for any situation and is skilled in navigation and general woodsmanship. Additionally, there tends to be no trail maintenance, no infrastructure, and no people... it's the best!

Trail Notes: 1. This is a great entry level Wilderness because of the abundant blazes marking the trails. I've hiked many, many wildernesses, and this is the easiest navigation I've ever had. Yes, all the blazes are the same color, but the trails for the most part follow old roads and runs, making it fairly easy to navigate.

2. There are a lot of Timber Rattlesnakes. I came up on one who was still digesting a nice meal, and so with his lethargy he was no concern. Down on the Laurel trail though, I came across a very aggressive one who coiled instead of striking as I barely missed him. My view of him was very short lived, as I was able to jump out of his reach. I've hiked a lot, and never had such a close scare with any animal (not to say I haven't encountered many, but this guy would've had me down for the count had he struck and I believe I was just too close for him to instinctually strike luckily he chose flight no fight) 3. People - we saw people on one occasion, and they were driving down the service road, and stopped to ask how "to get out of wherever we are". Additionally, I normally have a bag full of other people's garbage on trips this time I didnt find anything other than cigg butts!

4. The crossing of laurel fork is now marked very very well with a big cairn on each side. Just follow the blazes and you cant miss it

5. There are signs warning of the water not being tested, recommending chemicals or boiling. I used a sawyer squeeze filter and neither I nor my buddy had any problems

By: euphgal Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 28, 2014
We wanted to do part of this trail as an out and back starting at the Laurel Fork Campground. It was awful. Unmarked and unmaintained. We gave up after about mile 2 when it was just a large patch of briars and raspberry bushes. There are so many other wonderful hikes in the area (try Chimney Top!) it's not worth the hassle of no view and prickers.

By: Drew Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Hiked this with my son for two days. Thought there would be some place to fish but that was not the case. Woods were soaked as it has rained everyday. Not one piece of wood on the ground was not completely rotted. Everything to be said the others have said. Where the trail is washed out it can be a little tricky with a heavy backpack. Watch out for rattlesnakes as you get between the first ford and the campsites. There was a big one sunning on the rocks and it rattled at my son when he walked within two feet of it. Beaver work is amazing to look at and the wetlands were great. Lots and lots of bugs in this wet early summer.

By: Ben Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Three of us did the hike as described the last weekend of June, 2013. The area was beautiful and like much of that area looked more like Cananda or New England in places. For the most part the trails were in good shape. The two exceptions were the Bearwallow Trail and a few parts of the Laurel Fork trail itself. The upper portion of the Bearwallow was hard to follow. The blazes were faint and the path was almost non-existent in the beginning. The trail does improve once you get on the grade by bearwallow run but be prepared to spend some time in the beginning looking for blazes. The Laurel fork trail was for the most part in great shape as it was worked on a couple years ago by the student conservation association. It had nice fresh blazes and they cleared out the rodos. The only bad part was a couple sections where the side hill had washed out forcing one to walk in Laurel fork a little ways. The campsite by the intersection of the Laurel fork and locust run trail was great though.

By: mrshwroberts Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 4, 2012
My husband and I did this hike as an overnight anniversary hike. It was nice to have a bathroom at the beginning and the end! The trail was mostly fairly easy to follow. The worst part was the Bearwallow Run part of the trail.  There were trees down, and we got a little off course in one section, but it didn't take long to get back on course. There is a wetlands area in this section, so the trail heads up on the mountain for a little while then comes back down past the wetlands.  It is obvious that they have been doing some repairs to parts of the trail because it had freshly marked trees.  We camped next to the water after doing almost ten miles on the first day.  It was a great spot! This is definitely a very diverse area.  My favorite part was between Locust Spring Run and the zigzag section. We also saw many, many different kinds of mushrooms on the first part of the hike. We only saw three people the whole time, and none of them were on the trail.  Two were forestry service people in a truck on the forestry service road (which is two miles of the hike, but very quickly done).  The other was when we got back to where we parked he had also been somewhere on the trail, but we never saw him.  Sadly, we didn't get to see any critters bigger than a salamander.  Great hike!  I can't wait to do another in this area!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 12, 2011
This time I went down to the river via Slabcamp Run Tr and up via Buck Run Tr. IMO, Slabcamp Run Tr offers more diverse landscapes than Bearwallow. In some places there are no blazes, but you don't need them because the remains of the old grade are obvious. According to the maps, Laurel Fork Tr continues downstream past the intersection with Christian Run Tr, but in about half a mile I gave up and returned. I wonder if I missed it, or it has been washed away? At night 2 racoons explored my campsite...they were not happy that all the food was hanging out of their reach. 

By: Brad Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 2, 2011
We did a backpack trip on the Laurel Fork loop and up Slabcamp and down Locust Spring. I thought it was a great backpack trip. At least half of the mileage on these trails is along old logging tram lines with no or relatively easy grade. Other sections were steeper climbs and criss-crossed streams (specifically up Slabcamp and a couple of times on Laurel Fork). Bearwallow Trail is a little hard to follow in some spots, but we only lost the trail for a couple of minutes (probably distracted by the blueberry bushes). The water was a little low (I guess expected for July). Not enough water to swim or fish in, but almost always enough flowing water for drinking and it was easy stream crossing. No big views anywhere, but hiking along the streams and occasional beaver ponds made for a very nice couple of days. Saw lots of birds, a couple of rattle snakes, a black bear and tons of salamanders. I will definitely go back at least twice - once in the spring to hike with the streams full and once in the fall to hike with the fall colors.

By: Colleen Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 2, 2010
Nice overall overnight hike.  We camped near Laurel Fork river.  Most of the loop looks like they have been worked on over the past summer, with the exception of the Bear Wallow Trail.  If you plan to take this trail be sure that you have adequate time as there are very few markers on the tree and in most places no obvious trail.  It was more of a bush-whacking expedition than a hike :) They do have orange markers in the ground noting future maintanence start and stop points.  Hopefully they will do that soon so people can get to see the 3 beaver dams that I counted while on that trail. (The beavers have also assisted in the hiding of the trail)

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 3, 2010
There are enough pretty trails for a leisurely 3-day trip. You can continue upstream past Bearwallow Run, do the loop on the right bank of the river. The best campsites and views are along the river, but the trail is often washed off and hardly blazed. There are no mosquitoes, gnats or ticks, but lots of birds. Bring water to drink before you reach Laurel Fork as Locust Spring (piped) is downhill from a pit toilet. This spring and the river are reliable water sources.

By: 179 Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 19, 2008
This was such a great area that our crew had to come back.   The long drive out after work put is in at dusk and we bagged it in the field.  If you do this, take some water to start out.  The old pump at the rec area is still broken.  Our route took us from the Locust Spring Rec Area lot down Locust Spring Run and cut back up to the Allegheney Rd.  There were a few fresh blazes. The old wood signs that remain are still more informative than the new plastic ones.  The road takes you to the Bearwallow trailhead and there are some senic areas along the stream as you near the valley floor.  We hit main stream and followed the trail downstream toward Laurel Fork.  The blazes are pretty faded out through here.  If we'd had paint we'd have gladly refreshed them.  We did find a couple of carins that helped locate the trail along the old rail beds that crisscross the area.  They were also helpful in finding a couple of stream crossings.  We added one at a stream crossing about 80 yards upstream of a 90 degree right turn in the stream.  There were no indications of the trail until we got into the rhododendrons on the opposite side.  As we neared the Laurel/Locust confluence we found some more plastic signs and some better blazing.  The camp at Locust Run was excellent as usual.  Our GPS measured 11.4 mi. for the day.  The trail out has some fresh blazes and the map on this site has some good info. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 5, 2008

We three began our hike at FR106 on the Bearwallow Run Tr., hiking down to the Laurel Fork; this was downhill and easy, but we really had to be on the lookout for the blazes toward the latter part of this trail. The trail sign at the  Laurel Fork Trail was excellent as were the signs at the other two traiheads this trip. Hiking north on the Laurel Fork with bright sunlight was magnificent. We had never seen so many rhododendron only wish they could have been in bloom. We took lunch sitting on rocks in the riverbed watching the Laurel Fork with its tiny rapids and riffles. No humans were seen all day and we felt like we owned the place-God's creation in all it's glory. There are some really dicy spots along the Laurel Fork before reaching Slabcamp Run where we had to scramble on rocks at the edge of the riverbed which reminded us of caving. The evergreens especially the spruces were spectacular all day. We crossed the Laurel Fork at its first real bend not long before Christian Run came in from the right, and crossed again at the Slabcamp Run trailhead( water was just below my knees). Slamcamp was uphill, with many crossings of the small run, and many blowdowns across the trail. We saw two beautiful whitetail deer. Slamcamp is generally well marked w/ fresh  blue blazes except near the north end where sometimes they tend to be hidden. This wilderness is no place for beginners or persons who are not at a  good fitness level. It is a great place for those wanting a secluded hike with good variety.

By: 179 Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 14, 2007

The trip out is a long drive from most other hikes on this site but it's very scenic.  The directions were good and the turn off Rt 28 was easy enough to find.  The picnic area has an old pump and a decent latrine that was unlocked.  The pump was non-functional so it was a good thing that we brought water for the first night.  There are also some old grills and picnic tables.  The trail head was easy enough to locate just off the picnic area.  You can see the hiker icon on the old sign post.  As we moved out we found one of the new laminated plastic signs on a new post face-down in the duff next to the old trail sign.  There were some fresh blue blazes along the trail through the evergreen forest as we started out but these faded before we arrived at the next intersection.  The old trail sign was somewhat more informative than the new sign in that it had directional arrows.  We continued down the stream valley and came to the next intersection where the trail takes a jog to the right and uphill.  The plastic sign had an arrow crudely carved into it indicating that the trail went to the right but the arrow also had some carving on top of it.   There was no wooden sign in sight.  There were no blazes confirming that the trail turned so our crew debated whether to follow the arrow or not.  We chose not to turn but probably should have as we learned later.  So we continued to follow the blazes we could find along the stream and an old rail bed downhill in the hope that we'd find something more reliable.  That didn't happen and we ended up at the campsite where Locust Spring Run intersects Laurel Fork which was our ulitmate destination.  At that point we took a GPS shot to confirm our location and checked both the old wooden trail sign and the new plastic one.  We'd missed the turn alright.  The campsite was clean, beautiful, and surrounded by wild rhododendrons.  Again, the plastic sign at the campsite had no directional arrows and the old wooden one was more informative.  The plastic sign at the intersection with the Buck Run Trail about 200 yards downstream from the campsite didn't have any arrows either but at this point we'd gotten the flick.  Blazes in the area were old and faded and the old wooden sign there was more informative.  We'd planned a longer hike but the weather had turned from snow showers to steady rain in the 40 degree range so we chose to bag it.   We had scouted the area across and downstream where there were some additional campsites but they were not as nice as the one we were in.  There is a crossing at the campsite and stream was less than knee deep - but very cold.  The hike out over an old rail bed the next day was pretty easy.  Good thing we didn't have to cross Laurel Fork as it had poured rain all night and the stream was up making a crossing dicy.  Again, blazes on the way out were in need of refreshing.  When we got to the second stream coming in from our left, the blazes were a problem.  We sent out scouts to check different routes and finally found where the trail continued up a steep hill on the left with switchbacks.  So when we go back we'll know not to cross the second stream and to look for the switchbacks uphill to the left.  We followed the switchback trail to the old road along the ridge through a dark stand of old evergreens and back to the picnic area.  The lesson learned is to have compass headings ready on our map to check the trail signs and have GPS waypoints as a backup.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 1, 2006
Leonard Adkins, author of '50 Hikes in Northern Virginia' and other trail guide books was right on when he described this hiking venue as 'A piece of the North-east U.S. or Canada located in the central or southern Apalachians'. The lush beaver meadows surrounded by dense Red Spruce, Birch and Red Pine forests makes you wonder 'when is a moose going to walk into the scene?'. We'll be back next year to explore the Christian and Cold Spring Runs section of this Special Management Area.

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