Sleepy Creek WMA: A 9.4 Mile Circuit Hike Including the Tuscarora Trail

Bear Track on the Tuscarora Trail near High Rock

Bear Track on the Tuscarora Trail near High Rock

Tempting as they usually are, our usual haunts really aren’t all that tempting on a holiday weekend.  Granted, I’m relatively sure the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area was pretty crowded in the vicinity of the lake, but a 9.4 mile circuit that I’ve been wanting to hike near the southern end of the WMA turned out to be a great (and quiet) alternative to fighting crowds in most places.

Great Eastern Trail sign and Tuscarora Trail blue blaze

Great Eastern Trail sign and Tuscarora Trail blue blaze

This hike had a familiar starting point, as I parked on the Hampshire Grade Road across from the Beacon Hill trail head.  From there, Candee and I walked 1.5 miles (on Beacon Hill/Tuscarora) that we’d seen in 2014 before turning left on a forest service road toward Pee Wee Point.  We stayed on the road (Pee Wee Point Trail) for about a mile before taking an abrupt right onto a poorly marked connector trail (.8 miles in length) that displayed one very lonely red blaze on the way to the bottom of the mountain.  The connector proved to be very difficult to follow, but our directions assured us that everything would be okay as long as we kept heading downhill.

Passing a wild turkey habitat area on the next forest service road

Passing a wild turkey habitat area on the next forest service road

The next stage consisted of another mile on a forest service road, as we passed a wildlife clearing before taking a right in the middle of a second clearing onto the white-blazed High Rock Trail.  This trail hosted our hike between the 4.2 and 5.1 mile marks, and after crossing a nearly dry Brush Creek, we headed up a steep hill to majestic High Rock and a sharp right onto the Tuscarora Trail.

Crossing Brush Creek, which was pretty easy  during the dry season

Crossing Brush Creek, which was pretty easy during the dry season

For the next two miles, the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail follows a pair of forest roads, the second of which is a sharp right (leading to Pee Wee Point) that closes the circuit portion of the hike.  At that point, a left turn reunited us with the Beacon Hill/Tuscarora Trail and a 1.5 mile up-and-down back to our roadside parking.

An imaginative blaze on the High Rock Trail

An imaginative blaze on the High Rock Trail

There were a few highlights on the 9.4 mile circuit (with an elevation gain of 1700′).  The first, as mentioned, is a solid, uphill workout on the High Rock Trail.  This was followed by numerous bear signs along the Tuscarora Trail heading away (north) from High Rock.  We met the only two hikers of the day at about the 6.5 mile mark, and as we heard them talking on the ridge above us, a large animal thundered through the woods on our left.  Was it a bear (or possibly bears, as there appeared to be a mother with at least one cub in the area)?  That’s difficult to say, but it’s a definite possibility.

From this vantage point, High Rock Trail drops off to the left and the Tuscarora Trail continues straight  along the ridge

From this vantage point, High Rock Trail drops off to the left and the Tuscarora Trail continues straight along the ridge.  We, however, were heading in the opposite direction.

The Tuscarora Trail and the trails that branch off of it are well-maintained but less crowded than most of our area’s other options.  The Tuscarora itself was created as an alternative route for the Appalachian Trail, and like the AT, it has many rugged stretches.  Unlike the AT, the Tuscarora isn’t a household word, and we were thankful for that over the holiday weekend.

A partial view of High Rock at the 5.1 mile mark.

A partial view of High Rock at the 5.1 mile mark.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>