Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Elijah Clark State Park: Hannah Clark Nature Trail (Blog Hike #367)

Trail: Hannah Clark Nature Trail
Hike Location: Elijah Clark State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of LincolntonGA (33.85365, -82.40389)
Length: 0.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: December 2011
Overview: A short out-and-back ridgetop hike parallel to Clarks Hill Lake.

Directions to the trailhead: From Lincolnton, take US 378 east 6.5 miles to the park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park.  Pay the small entrance fee and park in any of the parking spaces around the Visitor Center.  The trail begins on the west side of the Visitor Center (left side as you enter the park).

The hike: He’s no George Washington, but Elijah Clark (the man for whom this park is named) is locally famous for his leadership of Georgia patriots during the Revolutionary War.  The Elijah Clark Memorial, a log cabin museum featuring circa 1780 furnishings, is located just northwest of the Visitor Center; it is open only on summer weekends.  Also, a small cemetery containing the graves of Elijah Clark and his wife Hannah lies just north of the Visitor Center.
Comprising 447 mostly wooded acres, Elijah Clark State Park is one of several state parks located on the shores of Clarks Hill Lake (known as Strom Thurmond Lake to the State of South Carolina), the second-largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi.  The park is popular for its two large, developed campgrounds, numerous picnic shelters, and of course its lake access. 
For hikers, the park offers two trails: the short 0.8 mile Hannah Clark Nature Trail and a longer 3 mile trail called, very blandly, “Hiking Trail.”  Combining the trails here with those at another nearby state park (Mistletoe in Georgia, Hickory Knob or Baker Creek in South Carolina, for example) makes for a nice full day of lakeside hiking.  My first visit to the park was a leg-stretch stop late one December afternoon.  Short on time and daylight, I chose to hike only the short Hannah Clark Trail.  I hope to return to hike the longer trail sometime in the future.
Trailhead: Hanna Clark Nature Trail
Start on the west side of the Visitor Center at a brown metal park sign that says “Hannah Clark Nature Trail” and bears the universal hiker symbol.  The yellow-blazed trail heads into the pine-maple forest and crosses a couple of streams on wooden footbridges.  Palmettos dot the understory.  Some numbered wooden posts indicate the presence of an interpretive guide though none are available at the trailhead.  The park office can be seen through the trees to the right.
Palmettos along the trail
At 0.2 miles, you reach the rim of a shallow ravine.  A path appears to descend directly down the hillside, but the official trail curves right and descends to the creek bank using a single switchback.  Follow the yellow blazes to stay on the official trail.
After crossing the creek on a wooden footbridge, the trail climbs moderately up the other side of the ravine.  At 0.4 miles, the trail ends at a picnic shelter near the cabin area.  The trail does not loop, so you need to turn around and retrace your steps 0.4 miles back to the Visitor Center to complete the hike.

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