Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paris Mountain State Park: Brissy Ridge Loop (Blog Hike #360)

Trail: Brissy Ridge Loop
Hike Location: Paris Mountain State Park
Geographic Location: southeast of Travelers Rest, SC (34.94068, -82.39141)
Length: 2.4 miles
Difficulty: 7/10 (Moderate/Difficult)
Last Hiked: October 2011
Overview: A steep descent to Buckhorn Creek followed by a moderate climb and an easy ridgetop walk.

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Greenville, take US 25 to State Park Road; there is a traffic light, Wal-Mart, and Paris Mountain State Park sign at this intersection.  Go east on State Park RoadTake State Park Road 9 miles to the signed state park entrance on the left.  Take a soft left to enter the park.  Pay the nominal entrance fee and remain on the park’s only road as it passes the campground entrance on the left. The Brissy Ridge trailhead is located on the main park road at the very top of the mountain.

The hike: For my general comments on Paris Mountain State Park, see the Sulpher Springs hike.  The hike described here circles Camp Buckhorn and tiny Buckhorn Lake, but it does so at quite a distance.  A few sections of the initial descent are quite steep (it took me just under 90 minutes to complete the entire loop), but the secluded cove and partially obstructed views from the ridgetop make the trouble worthwhile.  Although the park map gives this loop and the Sulpher Springs Loop identical difficulty ratings, the descent here is significantly easier than the one on the Sulpher Springs Loop, in my opinion.
Trailhead
            The Brissy Ridge Trail forms a loop through the trailhead parking area, so you could start in either direction.  To get the hardest hiking over with first, I chose to hike the loop counterclockwise by starting at the rear of the parking area at a brown wooden sign that reads, “Brissy Ridge Trail, foot traffic only.”  The single-track yellow-blazed trail parallels the park road for its first few hundred feet.
           Very quickly a spur trail signed “to parking area” exits to the right.  This trail does not take you to the main parking area but to a supplementary parking area located on the park road.  Many parks make existing parking areas larger when they need more vehicle space, but this park has chosen to build small supplementary parking areas and link them together with spur trails.  The system seemed to be working well on my visit.
Steep switchbacks
            Past the spur trail, the Brissy Ridge Trail curves left and descends to a small rhododendron-choked stream using a pair of steep switchbacks.  Double paint blazes mark each turn, but the trail is well-worn, and getting lost should not be a threat.  For the next 0.7 miles the trail undulates sometimes steeply as it winds along the side of the ridge.  The park map tells you Buckhorn Lake lies downhill to the left, but the understory is too thick to permit any views of the lake.
Still descending
            0.8 miles into the hike, the trail descends over some wooden waterbars and crosses Buckhorn Creek, the outlet stream of Lake Buckhorn, on a tiny wooden footbridge.  This stream marks the lowest elevation on the hike.  Now on the north side of Buckhorn Creek, the trail climbs gradually to cross the paved Camp Buckhorn access road and re-enter the forest on the opposite side.  The trail up to the road crossing is open to hikers only, but the remainder of the loop is also open to mountain bikers.  If you see or hear a biker coming, simply step to the side of the trail and let the faster bike pass.
            The trail gradually arcs to the left as it climbs back to the ridgetop, gaining 220 feet of elevation over the next 0.6 miles.  The trail passes under the powerline supplying electricity to the camp as it climbs.  The grade is gradual to moderate for most of the duration, but the final couple hundred feet are somewhat steep.  Some southern pine beetle activity can be detected near the top of this climb.
Ridgetop hiking
            At 1.5 miles, the Pipsissewa Trail exits to the right at a signed T-intersection.  Turn left to continue the Brissy Ridge Loop.  The remaining 0.9 miles of ridgetop walking are quite easy and also quite pleasant.  The trail undulates gradually sometimes leading over a hogsback but usually remaining well below the ridge crest.  Some partially obstructed views of the largely forested area north of Greenville open up to the right.  Of course, these views will be better during the leafless months than during the summer.
View from Brissy Ridge
            At 1.8 miles, the red-blazed Kanuga Trail exits to the right at another signed intersection.  More of the same ridge-side walking lies ahead until, at 2.4 miles, you reach the information kiosk located near the trailhead parking area.  A short walk straight ahead will return you to the main Brissy Ridge Trailhead parking area to complete the hike.

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