Ridgeline-Hooker Creek Loop Hike Route Map

DuPont State Forest - Ridgeline/Hooker Creek Loop

This album, touring what I’ve dubbed the Ridgeline/Hooker Creek Loop, is one of many ‘filler hikes’ which I’d need to complete to achieve my 2020 goal of hiking every trail in DuPont State Forest. There’s nothing terribly interesting about this hike I'm afraid, other than perhaps the pretty walk alongside tiny Lake Imaging. This is a woodland stroll primarily. Your surroundings will almost exclusively be the mixed pine and deciduous forests common within DuPont. It’s not a terribly difficult loop either. The grades never approach anything steep and, due to the well-travelled nature of the trails, it’s never rugged. This is a great hike for those simply wanting to spend a couple hours or so out in the forest, with just enough effort required to feel like you had a little workout to boot. Understandably then, I wasn’t expecting this hike to be all that memorable…but after a quick morning snowfall passed through, allowing me off work early, I had a chance to see DuPont in winter garb, something I had never yet experienced. So it was that I arrived at an all-but-empty Lake Imaging Access parking lot (a supremely rare thing!) with snow-covered trails and a frosted forest before me.

Lake Imaging Access is one of DuPont’s primary trailheads. Located on Staton Road it’s normally a very busy place but, if you can time it like I did, you may get lucky and all but have the place to yourself. Lake Imaging Road (gated) departs alongside a large informational kiosk. The hike begins with a short, mostly flat, walk through a broad drainage choked with rhododendron. In less than a quarter-mile the Ridgeline Trail is reached, breaking uphill into the pines. The Ridgeline Trail, hiked-end-to end from this direction is entirely an uphill walk…though not a terribly difficult one. At worst it is moderately steep, but it’s well-trodden and wide. As its name implies the trail wanders along the broad ridge to the north of Hooker Creek. The junction with the Hooker Creek Trail is reached in just over a mile which you’ll now turn onto to continue the loop. You’ll now be on a downhill trajectory for the first time as the trail seeks out the bottom of the drainage where its namesake is located. Unfortunately, due to a trail reroute, the creek is never close enough to see. Just as the trail bottoms out in the flats nearby it once again begins to climb, regaining just about all the elevation lost since the Ridgeline Trail before arriving at the White Pine Trail.

Turning south now, you’ll follow the very road-like White Pine Trail for barely 1/3-mile before another (much larger) junction is reached. Here the White Pine Trail becomes the Thomas Cemetery Road at a crossing of Buck Forest Road, one of the main thoroughfares of DuPont. The route now turns southwest to follow Buck Forest Road which remains rolling to flat for the ¾-miles you’ll be utilizing it. You’ll notice your surroundings haven’t changed all that much so far…sorry to say, they really won’t the rest of the way either. At least the going is easy though. When you arrive, turn west onto the Jim Branch Trail. The Jim Branch climbs for a couple hundred yards, passes the Isaac Heath Trail which heads south, and begins a winding descent back towards Lake Imaging. As far as scenery goes, it’s my humble opinion that the Jim Branch Trail is the prettiest of the day. It’s a traditional footpath for one thing, unlike the road-like trails much of the loop is spent on. It also passes through extensive and impressively tall stands of pine. It’s quite majestic at times, especially in the snow. In 1.2-miles the opposite end of the Jim Branch Trail is reached at Lake Imaging Road, just above Lake Imaging itself. Turning north Lake Imaging is reached almost immediately (and is worth a quick stop). The loop is closed in passing the Ridgeline Trail soon thereafter, and Lake Imaging Road returns to the trailhead a short time after that.

Overall this is a pleasant enough hike, it’s just not the most visually exciting. As stated before this isn’t an overly strenuous loop and is suitable for just about anyone, including kids. However, if you can catch it in the snow...all the better! That said it’s my pleasure to now invite you along on a hike in a snow-covered DuPont State Forest, along the Ridgeline/Hooker Creek Loop. As always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.209319, -82.615539


Route Type:  Loop                      Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzold Rating:  7.00 )

Hike Length:  5.7 miles                Hike Duration:  2:15

Trailhead Temp:  30'F                 Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  2,300'                  Max. Elevation:  2,750'

Total Vertical Gain:  650'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  114'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Buck Forest Road (unblazed), Hooker Creek (unblazed), Jim Branch (unblazed), Lake Imaging Road (unblazed), Ridgeline (unblazed), White Pine Road (unblazed)


2-8-2020

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