Paint Rock is about seven miles north of Hot Springs on River Road. Heading north on Highway 25 into Hot Springs, I took a right onto River Road right before the bridge. It’s a pretty cool road in that it is narrow, changes to gravel, and stays very close to the water. I had to stop once because there were a bunch of wild turkeys in the road.
I made a mistake that got me about 40 minutes of extra exercise. I wanted to stand on the cliffs and take a picture of the river and so I looked up the Paint Rock Trail online before I left. I read that I should go 1/10 of a mile on Forest Road 54 and look for the trail. I found it easy enough and began to hike. It was a hot day for November, in the upper 80’s. The trail was very steep and kept me at least 30 yards from the edge of where I thought the cliffs might be. The underbrush was thick and I was a little worried about scrambling through the underbrush and falling over the edge down onto the rocks. I thought the trail would come out to an overlook. Eventually, after thirty minutes of hiking practically straight up, I was so high that that I wouldn’t be able to shoot the river with my GoPro.
On the way down, I got off the trail a few times to try and find the overlook I had in mind but didn’t see anything. Once I got off the mountain, I waded around in the area of where Paint Creek flows into the French Broad. I stared up at the cliffs and couldn’t see how I could get out to one of the lookouts. I also realized that even if I could scale one of the cliffs before me, it wouldn’t offer much of a view of the river as much as the adjacent mountain.
I started to walk on River Road back toward Hot Springs and the direction I’d come. It was then I noticed a very steep trail that went up to a ledge that looked out on the river. I’d done a tough 40 minute hike when a little five minute scramble would have done the job.
I took some pictures and shot the video I needed, and so with plenty of time to still get back to Lover’s Leap, I didn’t mind the extra workout.
In Hot Springs, you access the Appalachian Trail to Lover’s Leap across the bridge from town. If you’re headed north into Hot Springs, you need to take a right before you can drive under Highway 25 and park at the Nantahala Outdoor Center parking lot. The AT goes right past the parking lot. I’m 90% sure that the rapid pictured below is called Surprise. We went over this with Blue Heron Whitewater when we did Section 9 of the French Broad River with them. The water level is wayyyy down from when I was last in Hot Springs.
I walked along the river upstream to follow the white blazed AT. There are many switchbacks to get to the top.
I was excited to meet a solo AT hiker. He told me he was doing half of the trail this year and the other half next year. He’d started earlier in the summer from Harpers Ferry, WV.The guy had covered over 20 miles on the day we met and over 400 miles for the summer. I told him my family and I had gone up there to buy a used raft.
Click here to find the Facebook page for our French Broad River movie
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