A few weeks ago we hiked with Upstate Hiking on what I like to call the Seven Sisters loop. This is not the trail’s official name. I just made it up because of the series of seven knobs on the ridgeline. In fact, this loop does not catch all the sisters at all but that’s okay. It was tough enough like it was.
Here’s the link for photos: http://www.meetup.com/upstate-hiking-and-outdoor-adventures/photos/24794212/
Montreat is a private community but it allows hiking on its property. Check out the links below for more information. We parked at the hiker’s parking lot on Graybeard Trail (parking is very limited here) and walked up to Suwanee Drive and turned right. After about a 10 minute walk, we found the trailhead for Big Piney Ridge Trail which also includes the trailhead for Lower Piney Trail. Apparently the Big Piney Ridge Trail has been rerouted for a brief period on the Lower Piney so watch for the signs. Big Piney is a strenuous 1.54 mile trail that Ts off at the West Ridge Trail where you turn right and head north up the Seven Sisters. There is one nice view on the Lower Piney reroute just before you turn back onto Big Piney. Before you hit the T with the West Ridge, you will find a small bald looking southwest where you can take a brief rest from your uphill exertions and snap a few photos if the weather is clear.
The West Ridge Trail is pretty much an uphill climb but much easier than Big Piney. There are several decent views through the trees on your right hand side as you make your way towards Walker’s Knob. There are also some interesting rock formations you will pass over. Look for the small markers noting the Sisters. You will eventually reach a wooden fence corral you will have to pass through at the intersection to the turn to Graybeard Mountain. We decided to forgo this because my past experience has been that the view was just not good enough to justify the in and out hike and the added mileage. At this point, the trail starts its descent. I took a nice photo of berries on the trail. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.phikearts.com/p390867070/h9fad14e#h9fad14e
Our next stop was the shelter where we ran into one lone camper. The group made a brief rest stop on the benches where we then took the side trail to Walker’s Knob to check out the view. Unfortunately the afternoon haze impeded the view somewhat but on a clear day it would be a good place to sit for a bit and have a nice lunch (if you are coming from the other direction) or a rest stop.
We made the return trip to the shelter and continued down the Graybeard Trail. This trail winds itself down the mountain passing by Graybeard Falls. The falls itself did not have a lot of water that day but the trail was a bit muddy. We met 6 or 7 hikers coming up on this trail towards us, the most all day. We actually did not see any other hikers until we hit the shelter! about 3.5 to 4 hours into our hike. Mr. T and I have hiked Big Piney and West Ridge before and never ran into anyone on those two trails. In addition, on this portion of the trail, we ran into several groups who were camping by the stream. One fellow was actually putting up a tent in the middle of the trail to Graybeard Falls and we had to walk around it to get to the falls. I pointed out to him mildly that did not seem like the best place for a tent but of course I was ignored. Sometimes people just don’t have any sense. Well if they wanted to camp there, they were going to have to put up with hikers traipsing through their campsite. We saw one other group camping downstream from here. This particular area on our hike seemed to be the most heavily used.
The hike eventually ended at the parking lot we started off at as we crossed what I think was Little Slaty Branch on a substantial wooden bridge. I think we were all ready to get back to our cars. This is actually a very nice loop hike with some decent views with a waterfall thrown in. It’s not for the beginning hiker though especially if you take the up at Big Piney! It might be a bit more doable starting from the opposite direction. Maybe we’ll try it that way next time.
Mileage about 10.5 miles.
Elevation Gain: At least 2200