Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Elijah Clark State Park: Hiking Trail (Blog Hike #370)

Trail: Hiking Trail
Hike Location: Elijah Clark State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of LincolntonGA (33.85497, -82.40194)
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: March 2012
Overview: A woodland hike along the west bank of Clarks Hill Lake.
Area Information: http://www.gastateparks.org/ElijahClark
Hike Route Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=96716
Photo Highlight:

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, turn right after passing the Visitor Center, and park in the gravel parking lot near the campground’s mini-golf course.  The trail begins at a large brown park sign that says, “3 Mile Trail.”

The hike: For my general comments on Elijah Clark State Park, see the Hanna Clark Trail blog entry.  The trail described here, named simply “Hiking Trail,” is the longer of the two trails in the park.  It is also my favorite of the two trails because Clarks Hill Lake remains in view for much of the hike.  The park brochure and signs list this trail at 3 miles, but a carsonite post at the trailhead lists it as 2.5 miles.  It took me about 1 hour to hike this trail, so I believe the distance on the post is more accurate.
Brown park sign at trailhead
            From the brown sign mentioned in “Directions to the trailhead,” head downhill through a grassy pine planting to reach an identical sign with an arrow pointing right.  Upon reaching a newly constructed wooden amphitheater, look for a wooden sign stating “Trail” and an arrow pointing left into the woods.  Henceforth, the neon green blazes lead through mixed broadleaf pine forest typical of a Piedmont Georgia state park.
            The gravel and dirt trail undulates gently as it crosses a couple of low ridges some 30 feet higher than the lake, which is visible through the trees to your left.  At 0.6 miles, you cross a couple of wooden bridges to reach the beginning of the loop.  As directed by another sign, I chose to turn left here and use the trail coming downhill from the right as my return route.  Some benches along the trail were constructed as part of an Eagle Scout project in 2009.
Wooden bridges near beginning of loop
            The wide gravel trail traces around one more lake inlet before reaching the best view of the lake at 1.3 miles.  When I hiked this trail in a light rain shower, a flock of mid-sized grey juncos enjoying the water swam away from me.  Another Eagle Scout bench at this point makes a great spot to rest midway through the hike.
Clarks Hill Lake
            Just past the bench, an elevated wooden observation platform offers almost no view whatsoever because it is completely surrounded by trees.  For the next 0.4 miles, the trail climbs gradually away from the lake as it heads west in an almost dead straight fashion with US 378 audible and visible through the trees on the left.  Needless to say, this is not the most pleasant section of trail on this hike.
            At 1.7 miles, another trail sign directs you to turn right while an unmarked side trail exits left and heads for the main park road.  This part of the forest is dominated by pine trees, but when I hiked this trail in early March, some pretty yellow forsythia shrubs were blooming in the understory.  At 1.9 miles, a brief descent rejoins you with the outbound trail, thus closing the loop portion of the hike.  Retracing your steps 0.6 miles along the entrance trail will return you to the parking lot to complete the hike.

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