Little Hickory Top Trail -- 2,850'

Bent Creek - Green's Lick/Sidehill Loop

Bent Creek Experimental Forest encompasses a 6,000-acre tract of land within Pisgah National Forest just to the southwest of the city of Asheville. Established in 1925, it is the oldest experimental forest in the Eastern United States. The purpose of the forest is that of a providing a living laboratory to better understand and implement management, conservation, restoration, and sustainability practices. Thankfully, while important to scientific research, Bent Creek is still openly available to the public for recreation purposes. On the downside of this is its proximity to the Asheville metro area. The miles of multi-use trails and forest roads see some of the heaviest foot and bike traffic in the entire National Forest. It’s a beautiful area, to be sure, just don’t head to Bent Creek expecting solitude. What you will find is a fantastic landscape of heavily forested hills, trees in places of impressively large size, all crisscrossed by pristine mountain streams. This would be my third in a series of four hikes covering the northern portion of the Bent Creek area. Like the others this one is short on sweeping views but, despite what it lacks in that department, it makes up for by circling through some of the prettiest woodlands to be found anywhere in the region.

The hike would begin from Forest Road 479 at its intersection with gated Forest Road 479G. This spot is located about 1.7-miles west of 479's junction with F.R. 481 near Lake Powhatan. As a lollipop-type route, the "stick" portion of the hike is up and back via Forest Road 479G. The road itself is easy to walk, only gradually ascending and wide open with a gravel surface. The upper and lower junctions with the Lower Sidehill Trail are passed in just over a quarter-mile and, at about the 2/3-mile mark the road devolves into a more trail-like appearance and the junction where the loop portion of the hike begins is reached. At this spot the Green's Lick Trail breaks left and the Sidehill Trail continues straight ahead. The loop can be done in either direction but, for completely arbitrary reasons, I'd be making the left to ascend the ridge via the Green's Lick Trail. After immediately hopping tiny Laurel Branch the Green's Lick Trail begins a long moderate climb of the ridge immediately to the south. The next mile is a bit of a slog, but it's not overly difficult. There's just not much to look at. After about a mile the grade eases considerably as the Green's Lick Trail now follows the steep eastern face of Billy Cove Knob. Two miles after leaving Forest Road 479G the Green's Lick Trail ends at its junction with the North Boundary Road.

The route now turns north (right) to follow the North Boundary Road towards Ingles Field Gap. As its name implies, the North Boundary Road does have the feel more of a roadway than a hiking path for much of the way. The forest is cut far back from the right of way which might lead you to believe there might be some nice views from high atop the ridge. Not so, unfortunately. In fact, there's only one tiny opening at the side of an old slide just to the south of Ingles Field Gap. Once at Ingles Field Gap you can now take pleasure in knowing it'll be all downhill from here on out. The gap is a busy intersection, which is obvious by how wide open it is. I managed to catch it on a slow day for this hike but, more likely than not, you'll be sharing the spot with numerous other people. From Ingles Field Gap now turn tightly back to the south via the Little Hickory Top Trail. The next mile is a pleasant downhill walk through a beautiful section of forest. There are a couple of clearcuts along this stretch as well, the upper one offering a very limited view. Just below the lower clearcut the Sidehill Trail splits right at a well-marked Y-junction.

The Sidehill Trail continues much as the Little Hickory Top Trail left off. Ever so gradually it winds its way down along the side of the thickly forested ridge. Again, there's no views to be had, but this is still the most beautiful part of the hike. The forest surrounding the trail here is magnificent and lush. It's Bent Creek Experimental Forest at its best. After a bit over a mile of walking on the Sidehill Trail the loop is closed as the path reaches the junction with Forest Road 479G once again. At this point it's an easy 2/3-mile walk back down 479G back to the start. Overall this is a pleasant, albeit rather unstimulating, hike. There are some beautiful woodlands to be seen here...some of the prettiest in Bent Creek. If you can be content with this then you'll love this hike. If you want views though, I'd skip it. This is also an area of heavy bike use, which may turn off some hikers. That said, I'll still invite you along with me as I take a walk around the Green's Lick/Sidehill Loop at Bent Creek. This is a true 'walk in the woods' type always, I hope you ENJOY!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.475113, -82.640350

Route Type: Lollipop      Difficulty: HARD (Petzoldt Rating: 9.70 )      Hike Length: 7.4 miles      Hike Duration: 3:00      Trailhead Temp: 65'F                                         Trail Traffic: 10-25 people      Min. Elevation: 2,240'      Max. Elevation: 3,320'      Total Vertical Gain: 1,150'      Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 155'

Trails Used (blaze color): Forest Road 479G (unblazed), Green's Lick (red), Little Hickory Top (yellow), North Boundary Road (unblazed), Sidehill (yellow)


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