The New Strawberry Gap Trail
By Emma Castleberry
In September, a new trail opened up in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge trail network. The Strawberry Gap Trail is a three-mile climb through boulder-strewn forests with expansive views of the gorge and mountains from a rocky outcrop at the halfway point, as well as from Blue Ridge Pastures at the top. This trail was made possible by a partnership between Conserving Carolina and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).
Beginning in 2008, SAHC worked with the Clarke, Ager and Hamilton families on a series of conservation easements protecting over 700 acres around Hickory Nut Gap. Preserving the land through conservation easements means that the families continue to own and use their land. “Conservation easements are not generally open to the public, but in this case, the landowners also generously decided to allow a public trail to cross their land, enabling the growth of the regional trail network in the Upper Hickory Nut Gap area,” says Angela Shepherd, communications director for SAHC.
The trail also crosses the 170-acre Strawberry Gap Preserve, which is owned by SAHC. The SAHC-conserved land around Hickory Nut Gap on the Eastern Continental Divide helps protect miles of stream corridor and a section of Ashworth Creek, part of the Chimney Rock-Hickory Nut Gorge Important Bird Area (as designated by the Audubon Society), forests and locally recognized high points at Tater Knob and Ferguson Peak, as well as the wide, open area atop Blue Ridge Pastures. “The Strawberry Gap preserve was a long-term priority for the conservation community and we are grateful to all who helped SAHC purchase the land,” says Hanni Muerdter, SAHC’s conservation director. “Many people will enjoy the outdoors and experience conservation because of the fantastic work and partnerships in this network.”
Because the trail crosses through private land, dogs are not allowed. The trail is six miles out-and-back and considered strenuous, so hikers should be prepared. “Beautiful trails like Strawberry Gap are inspiring,” says Rose Jenkins Lane, communications director for Conserving Carolina. “People who go out on the trail can experience the wonder of the natural world, from the sweeping mountain views to the mossy boulders to the butterflies in the meadow. They come away inspired in ways that help them live their best life and also encourage them to give back to our natural world.”
The Strawberry Gap trailhead is located in Gerton. It is on the south side of Highway 74A, near its intersection with Little Pisgah Road. You will see a fenced gravel parking area with space for 25 cars and a kiosk at the trailhead. For more information, visit ConservingCarolina.org and Appalachian.org.
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