The Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail is the only way to see the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. This is an old growth forest, which is unfortunately very rare in this area, with trees that are up to 450 years old. The massive tulip-poplars can be up to 20 feet in circumference.
We drove up from the Atlanta area and passed through the small town of Robbinsville, North Carolina as we neared our destination. We set up camp at Horse Cove Campground which is within walking distance of the trailhead parking area for the Joyce Kilmer forest. The trail is a series of two loops forming sort of a messy figure eight. There had been a fire in the area somewhat recently so part of the first loop was closed while we were here.
We took the path across the stream and followed a slight incline for about half a mile through several patches of wild rhododendrons until we arrived at the nexus of the two loops. The extremely large tulip-poplars are concentrated in this area and are strikingly huge. This is an all hardwood forest in this area. The shorter second loop took us a while to complete as we took pictures and discussed which tree we thought was the largest.
We then returned back the way we came and quickly arrived back at the parking area. The trail is normally about 2 miles in length but since one part of the first loop was closed, we actually went about 1.75 miles.
This trail was very enjoyable and easy to complete. I would think that these may be the largest trees in any concentration on the east coast. There is a lot of other outdoor activities in this area as well as being only about 45 minutes from the Cherokee entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As always, thanks for reading. rk