I had visited Joyce Kilmer in fall and winter but was anxiously awaiting spring to arrive in the ancient grove as it recommended as one of the finest wildflower hikes around. To my great enjoyment my work once again took me out near the trail so, arriving a bit early, I headed out on the hunt...
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is located near the town of Robbinsville, near eastern terminus of the Cherohala Skyway, in the western reaches of Nantahala National Forest. It contains one of the few large remaining stands of virgin forest in the east and is home to some truly giant trees. The giants of the valley are the Tulip Poplars, some of which are over 400 years old and have circumferences in excess of 20 feet! In a land that has been subjected to the saw over and over again this area stands apart as a true treasure of the southern Appalachians.
Designated in 1936, the 3,600 acre grove is dedicated to a man who never actually set foot in this forest but whose love for the woods echoes in the famous poem he wrote simply titled, "Trees." Unfortunately, this remarkable young man had his life cut short on the battlefields of France in World War 1. I'm not sure a more fitting memorial could have been imagined. Despite suffering through the destruction of the Hemlocks shortly after it was dedicated, and more recently the loss of its Hemlocks, the forest is still a magical place to visit, one that any true lover of nature shouldn't miss...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.358794, -83.929511
Hike Length: 2.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 70'F
Min. Elevation: 2,220' Max. Elevation: 2,600'
Total Vertical Gain: 400' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 200'