By: Lacy Hilliard
The stretch of Highway 91 that winds along picturesque Laurel Creek has long been one of Johnson Countys most impressive expanses of wilderness. Though the road makes for a lovely drive, its narrow and curvy nature offers little to those who are interested in exploring that particular expanse of the Cherokee National Forest by foot, bike or horse
Laurel Creek Trail is now officially open to (non-motorized use) hikers, bikers and horseback riders alike. The three-mile stretch of trail runs on the side of Laurel Creek opposite the road from Tennessee to the Virginia border and its creation opens a whole new world of possibilities to outdoor enthusiasts.
Rhododendron thickets, cascading waterfalls that flow into the churning whitewater below and an abundance of plant and wildlife are just a few of the things you will experience on Laurel Creek Trail. The newly opened trailhead is impressive with its landscaped parking lot, grandiose bridge leading to the start of the trail and new restroom facilities its clear that the trails creators have big plans for this little trail.
The Johnson County Trails Association (JCTA) is responsible for planning the project and helping to see it to fruition. The JCTA formed nearly 15 years ago and remains a strong organization to date. The JCTA planned, obtained funding and managed the development of Laurel Creek Trail and will continue to develop the trail in a way that promotes future growth.
Howard Moon of the Johnson County Trails Association confirmed that future plans are indeed in the works for Laurel Creek Trail. The Laurel Creek Trail is both a stand alone project, and part of a larger county plan for recreational trails. Extension northward to connect with the Virginia Creeper Trail at Damascus, and south to Ralph Stout Park are in future long range plans of The Trails Association, said Moon.
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