One of the things I love the most about Western Carolina University is that there are almost endless opportunities for outdoor fun. Whether your favorite outdoor activity is hiking, backcountry camping, swimming, kayaking, or even rock climbing, there are dozens of places you could go within 45 minutes of Cullowhee.
However, there are essentially no true hiking trails that are less than 15 minutes away from Cullowhee. This is a big problem if you’re having car troubles or issues with gas money.
There is one hike very close to campus that I’ve discovered. If you drive to Forest Hills Apartments (straight across Highway 107 from the Ramsey Center) and park on the far side of the visitor parking lot (near the dumpsters), face the apartment complex and you will see an abandoned road leading behind the apartments. Follow this road for two hundred feet and you’ll arrive at a small crossroads. The left fork leads to where a house used to be, but a chimney is all that remains of it. To find the trail, take the right fork and follow it a short way until you see an abandoned house, a pair of abandoned silo’s, and a red metal gate. There are “No Trespassing” signs at the abandoned house, so please heed them. Behind the metal gate there is a gravel service road that leads to an electric transformer tower. There aren’t any “No Trespassing” signs along the service road, so it’s ok to be there.
The hike is short and steep, but not so steep as be accessible by only the fit and in-shape. I would not recommend this hike during the summer months. In the summer, the road becomes slightly overgrown and you should be careful of the poison sumac along the side of the trail. The trail makes several bends but generally leads straight up the side of a large hill that has been cleared to make room for the electrical tower.
When you reach the top of the hill you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the entire WCU campus and the mountains that surround it. The only thing that gets in the way of the panorama is the giant electrical tower. This is the perfect short hike to do by yourself or with a group of friends. The best time to do this hike would be on a cool Autumn evening.
Another reason this hike is a favorite of mine is that in August and early September there are hundreds of blackberries growing along the sides of the trail. Last year I picked enough to fill a gallon jug to share with my family, and by today, Aug. 20, they will be ripe for the picking.