This loop at Sweetwater Creek is a great hike that can be done in a morning or afternoon. Pack a lunch or snack to enjoy along the creek if you have extra time!
Start this hike on the White Trail
at the front door of the visitor center. Turn right at the main trailhead to stay on the White Trail
(the Red Trail
descends to the left). After you enter the forest, the trail will fork. You can go either way, but going right allows you to get a good warm up with gentle inclines. It also allows you to get some of the less-scenic parts out of the way.
After turning right, you'll cross a couple of park roads and eventually end up on an old gravel road. At about a mile, you'll turn left on another gravel road. Follow that all the way to some large fields (great for seeing wildlife in the morning and evening). The White Trail
turns right in the fields, continuing southwest. You'll soon be on a rocky doubletrack descent which will take you to a narrower trail nestled in a stream drainage. Keep following the white blazes.
After about 2.3 miles, keep going straight at the intersection with the Brown Trail
(where there is a bridge to the right), and you'll eventually end up at Sweetwater Creek. Along the creek, the trail goes through a lot of little rock gardens and there are some easy scrambles over large rock outcroppings. You'll do this for a while until you hit some very steep stairs. Climb the stairs and follow the boardwalk over some steep sections.
Eventually, you'll come to a confusing intersection with the Red Trail
. The White Trail
goes up the steep, eroded stairs, while the Red Trail
goes back towards the river. Turn right onto the Red Trail
to head down toward the river. Enjoy a nice photo opportunity as you pass the old ruined mill or head down to the water for a refreshing break before looping back to the visitor center to finish the hike.
Chestnuts, oaks, ferns, beech, deer, and copperhead snakes.