Pink Beds Loop (8-24-12)
The Pink Beds are a high elevation mountain valley located in nothern Transylvania County which contains the the upper reaches of the South Fork of the Mills River. It is a fascinating area both ecologically and historically. Sitting in the shadow of the Blue Ridge, the valley contains large areas of high altitude bog as well as a fascinating mix of both high and low elevation forests. The ecological stars of this valley, the laurels, rhododendrons, and azaleas, burst forth every spring in waves of color which likely provided the valley with its present name. In modern times settlers came to the Pink Beds area in the early 1800's but it was a tough existence. In the late 1800's George Vanderbilt started buying up huge tracts of land to the south and west of his Biltmore Mansion. The Pink Beds eventually came into his posession and the first forestry school in America, the Biltmore School, was created. The school operated into the early 20th Century and eventually the Pink Beds became part of the Pisgah National Forest. Today, they make up the bulk of the 6,400 acre Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site.
The Pink Beds Loop begins off US-276 at the Pink Beds Picnic area about 4-ish miles below the Blue Ridge Parkway. The loop is about 5-miles in length but is bisected halfway giving hikers the option of a shorter 2.5 mile loop. There's a bit of a problem right now, however. A number of years back a family of beavers moved into the Pink Beds. Setting up a nice dam, they promptly flooded a good portion of the southwestern quarter of the loop. Since then the USFS has closed this portion of the loop while an extensive boardwalk system is constructed. At the time of this hike, I was interning at the Cradle of Forestry, which allowed me to explore the closed portions of the trail. Therefore, though you will see the entire loop in this album, I urge you to obey the 'closed trail' signs if you visit...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.353176, -82.778930
Hike Length: 5.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:30
Trailhead Temp: 75'F
Min. Elevation: 3,220' Max. Elevation: 3,300'
Total Vertical Gain: 150' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 30'