Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Table Rock's Carrick Creek

While I set out on the 7.2-mile, 2,000ft ascent up Table Rock Mountain, Roberts and the boys had their own adventure on the moderately strenuous, almost-2-mile Carrick Creek loop. The trail holds special memories for me, as I was about 8 months pregnant with Lauris when I hiked it the first time! My krustmāte and cousin Līga were in town on spring break, and among other sightseeing we did up on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the Carrick Creek trail was our longest hike; in my experience this is a great hike for a dad soloing with the three boys while mom tackles the more difficult ascent up Table Rock.

My 8mo preggers self w Antra and Līga - photo credit Antra

Turn north into Table Rock SP from Highway 11, and soon you’ll pass a nice turnout that has great views of Table Rock Mountain (the trail that heads up to the summit of this Upstate icon also leaves from the Nature Center, sharing the trail for a short distance). The parking area for the Carrick Creek trailhead is across from the Nature Center, and after registering at the center (or the kiosk) you’ll set out on a paved path that heads north along the creek.


During the summer months, the creek, its various cascades and the pool beneath the falls will be filled with visitors looking to cool off in the cold mountain waters. There is a multi-level deck with some seating situated along the creek oriented to allow for viewing of the waterfall, and stones in the stream just beg for rock-hopping exploration. On this warm October day the pool was sprinkled with orange and brown leaves mingling with the reflections of blue skies and still-green leaves on the trees above.

Photo credit: Roberts

Just beyond the waterfall and the several smaller cascades, the trail reaches an intersection. To follow the Carrick Creek loop clockwise you make a left, following Pinnacle Mountain Trail, the Foothills Trail and Carrick Creek for about a half-mile. Our you can complete the Carrick Creek loop counter-clockwise, and follow Green Creek and the Table Rock Trail to the right – your choice. My boys opted to turn left, while I went right – but that is another story!

Photo credit: Roberts

The Carrick Creek Nature Trail loop is marked with green blazes and is easy to follow. The banks of Carrick Creek are mainly populated by rhododendron and mountain laurel, and in addition to dozens of small cascades and falls there are plenty of opportunities for creek exploration if the weather allows. The boys had a great time exploring the chutes & rocks in and around the creek; in dad’s words “it didn’t feel like a hike to a waterfall, it felt like a hike along a waterfall.” The next intersection is where Pinnacle Mountain Trail splits off for Mill Creek Falls & Pinnacle Mountain, and to follow the Carrick Creek Nature Trail one must turn east, away from the creek.

Photo credit: Roberts

Here the forest is dominated by oaks and hickories, the mast year for acorns evident underfoot. By now you’ve reached an elevation of about 1,520’ (up from 1,160’ at the Nature Center) and the trail mostly levels out until you hit the intersection with Table Rock Trail and Green Creek (a tributary of Carrick Creek), at which point you’ll start making your way back down towards the trailhead.

Photo credit: Roberts

The last ½ mile is a swift descent along the creek, a few bridges bringing hikers back and forth across Green Creek. After passing numerous small cascades you will close the loop at the intersection with the Foothills Trail, and the last little bit is just retracing your steps past the waterfalls to the Nature Center.

Photo credit: Roberts

Know before you go!
This loop is 1.8 miles, and is rated moderate due to the steep sections, the creek crossing and uneven trail. It is a good hike for families, as the kids will be distracted from the climb in elevation by their explorations in Carrick Creek. My recommendation is to travel the loop clockwise, as Green Creek isn’t as accessible as Carrick, and so it is better viewed on the descent. If there is more energy to expend once you’ve finished the hike, you might want to try the playground across the road from the Nature Center – just follow the pedestrian walkway across the bridge and you’ll see stairs going down.

Photo credit: Roberts


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