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LAKE LURE — A new 2.1-mile hiking trail to the summit of Youngs Mountain rewards hikers willing to tackle the elevation gain and precipitous drop-offs with spectacular views thanks to the work of Conserving Carolina.

The trail — which was just completed at the end of April — rises 1200 feet in elevation, climbing up log and stone stairsteps for much of the way, with panoramic views from the scenic cliffs and exposed summit. Use caution around the exposed cliffs and rock outcrops, as a fall could be deadly and the hike may not be appropriate for pets or young children.

Despite WNC’s hiking claim to fame, it’s rare for a brand-new, purpose-built trail to come along, especially one of this caliber and design. The trail is located on privately protected land, with extremely limited parking and not-so-great access.

To hike the trial, you have to plan ahead and register to get one of the parking spots the day you want to hike. The trail head is located within a gated community, and you get the gate code and directions when you register. To register, go here.

The Young Mountain Trail is in Rutherford County east of Lake Lure made possible by Conserving Carolina.

Trail description:

The trail begins by traversing through gentle and rolling forest and crosses several picturesque small streams. Around half a mile from the trailhead, you will come to a small, splashing waterfall. After this point the trail begins to climb more steeply, including numerous log steps. Several dramatic rock outcrops offer beautiful views of the surrounding cliffs, mountains, valleys, and lakes.

This is the view from the top of the new Youngs Mountain Trail! One of the wonderful things about this view is how much of the land you see is protected forever. Conserving Carolina helped to protect Chimney Rock State Park, Weed Patch Mountain, and Youngs Mountain, with the help of members like you! We continue to work to protect more land in this area and open new trails to expand the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail.

The trail culminates on the summit of Youngs Mountain, which offers spectacular views over Lake Lure and the sheer rock faces of Rumbling Bald, Shumont Mountain, and Eagle Rock. You can also see Weed Patch Mountain, Buffalo Creek Park, and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. On a clear day, you may see Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains. You can also see a vast stretch of the Piedmont to the southeast.

Youngs Mountain is an out-and-back trail. When you reach the endpoint on the summit of Youngs Mountain, enjoy the view, then hike back the way you came.

The environment:

The mountain is part of the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the mountains rise from the Piedmont. The swift elevation change of the escarpment creates a wide range of niches for plants and wildlife, supporting extraordinary biodiversity.

The summit and other rock outcrops on Youngs Mountain are home to unique alpine communities that include rare and endangered lichens, mosses, plants, and wildlife. Stay within the designated trail to protect these rare communities and the biodiversity that they support.

The Youngs Mountain Trail passes through 437 acres of habitat that Conserving Carolina helped to protect with the support of donors and another 96 acres owned by Rutherford County Parks and Recreation.

The conserved tract and Youngs Mountain Trail are part of a long-range vision to expand the patchwork of protected lands in the greater Hickory Nut Gorge area and connect them with a long-distance trail called the Wilderness Gateway State Trail, which would extend as far east as Hickory.

Trail design:

The Youngs Mountain Trail was constructed as state-of-the-art, sustainable trail — designed to stand-up against erosion that not only degrades the trail but pollutes streams with muddy run-off. Hikers will notice the trail rolls up-and-down and curves side-to-side.

These rises, dips, and curves shed water, so it doesn’t run down the trail. On the steepest sections, stairs were constructed of durable locust logs. There are also hand-built stone drains, carrying water away from the trail.

Two other Conserving Carolina trails—Wildcat Rock Trail and Weed Patch Mountain Trail—have already won national awards for excellence in design and construction and the Youngs Mountain Trail meets the same high bar for excellence.

The trail is the handiwork of Conserving Carolina’s Trails Specialist Peter Barr, Singletrack Trails and its award-winning trail builder Shrimper Khare, a Conserving Carolina’s Rock Crushers volunteer trail crew, Benchmark Trails and American Conservation Experience.

For more information about Conserving Carolina and the Youngs Moutain Trail, click here.