Big Lost Cove Cliffs (10-7-18)
The Big Lost Cove Cliffs are an impressive series of open ledges located along the Big Lost Cove Ridge which forms the southern boundary of the deep valley formed by Lost Cove Creek. The cliffs are most notable for their grandstand view of Grandfather Mountain, whose rugged ridgeline dominates the horizon across the valley to the north. It’s arguably the most impressive view of Grandfather to be had from any vantage point in the area. The Big Lost Cove Cliffs have therefore been on my radar as a must-see hiking destination for a while but, due to their relative remoteness, had eluded me thus far. Today was the day to remedy that fact. One thing you may notice as well, upon perusing this album, is how noticeably green everything is. The fall of 2018 had been incredibly warm right up through the time of this hike and even in the high country, where this trip takes place, little if any color change had occurred despite it being near the middle of October. No doubt at peak season the Big Lost Cove Cliffs would be an outstanding place to see the colors (most years mid-October would be nearing peak) but on this trip it still looked very much like summer. Nevertheless I still think you’ll agree this is a pretty spectacular place.
The hike would begin from the unassuming trailhead off Forest Road 464 a few miles southwest of Jonas Ridge (see GPS coordinates below for the location). Across from a small pull-off the Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail ascends into the forest. The first part of this short hike involves a moderate climb as the path seeks out the crest of the ridge which will eventually lead out to the cliffs. Perhaps a half-mile in the trail gains the crest and turns sharply to the north. At this point the trail begins a long gradual descent along the ridgetop in the direction of the cliffs. For the most part the descent is easy but, particularly at a point just before the cliffs, it becomes a bit steeper. At any rate it is never too difficult and is suitable for pretty much any skill level. The route passes through a variety of woodland settings from rhododendron and laurel hedges to oak-hickory forests to stands of mixed pine and hemlock. It’s a pretty hike despite the lack of views until the very end. The trail emerges onto the cliffs between branches of stunted Table Mountain Pines and the view will immediately take your breath away. A thousand feet below is the thickly forested valley of Lost Cove Creek. Beyond, rising in a four thousand foot wall is Grandfather Mountain itself. To say the scene is grand is almost an understatement. It’s incredible. Atop the cliffs there’s plenty of room to wander, both up and down the ridge, where different vantage points can be had and numerous interesting rock formations can be found. You will probably, like me, have no problem spending a good deal of time enjoying your surroundings.
After soaking in all the beauty the return trip simply involves retracing your steps. The climb back up the ridge is rarely difficult and, like I said earlier, the forest surroundings are beautiful which helps. Overall this was a very enjoyable hike with scenery that far exceeds the effort required to see it. This is hike that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. It’s even what I’d consider kid-friendly…though you’ll want to keep a close watch at the cliff edge. Without further adieu then I present to you the quick walk out to the magnificent Big Lost Cove Cliffs…as always, ENJOY!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.011979, -81.857339
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: 3.4 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 3,400' Max. Elevation: 3,760'
Total Vertical Gain: 700' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 206'
Trails Used (Blaze Color): Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail (yellow)