Scenic Views and Rare Biodiversity
By Emma Castleberry
Conserving Carolina has opened the Youngs Mountain Trail, a 2.1-mile hiking trail that offers views of Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald, Weed Patch Mountain and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. Part of the growing Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail network, this trail passes through more than 400 acres of protected land, crossing many small creeks at the bottom of the mountain and winding through a diverse community of mosses and lichens towards the top of the mountain.
“Youngs Mountain is home to eight rare natural community types, several of which are globally critically imperiled,” says Rebekah Robinson, assistant director for programs for Conserving Carolina. “The rarest of habitats found there include low-elevation Basic Glade, Granitic Dome and Rocky Summit, which all contain exposed rock and vegetated mats of mosses, and other plant species, as well as lichen.”
Youngs Mountain is also home to rare plants like Bradley’s spleenwort and lobed spleenworts, which are types of ferns, as well as purple alumroot, which wasn’t known to live in this part of the state before its discovery in this area. “The Rocky Summits also host lampshade spiders, listed as rare in North Carolina,” says Robinson. “The mosses, lichens, ferns, spiders and other species found in these habitats are fragile and it is important for hikers to stay on the designated trails at Youngs Mountain.” There are strings along the trail that delineate the path to protect this ecosystem and keep hikers on a safe route.
The trail was sustainably designed by Conserving Carolina trails specialist Peter Barr with features to reduce erosion, protect water quality and minimize the need for maintenance. Construction was completed by Singletrack Trails and its trail builder Shrimper Khare with support from Conserving Carolina’s Rock Crushers crew, Benchmark Trails and American Conservation Experience.
The trail is considered steep and strenuous, climbing more than 300 stone and log steps along the way. The trail ends atop a granite dome and there are numerous cliffs and outcrops along the way. Because it is an out-and-back, hikers can choose to only walk the lower, more moderate part of the trail through the woods before turning around.
Parking is limited at the trailhead, which is located in the gated Tatanka neighborhood north of Lake Lure. Trail users must register for a free parking day pass at ConservingCarolina.org/youngs-mountain. Conserving Carolina plans to extend the trail in the future to connect to a larger parking area outside of the gated neighborhood.