Price Lake Loop Trail (Milepost 296)

Difficulty Rating:  4

Hello and welcome!  This is my first post in my quest to hike every trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  By pure luck, I picked just the right time of year to begin—autumn is almost here, the leaves will be changing soon, and this just-cool-enough, sunny weather makes remaining indoors next to impossible.  It had been quite a while since I’d been hiking last, so I was pretty excited to get started.  To kick off the occasion, I talked my fellow hikers into having dinner at the Dan’l Boone Inn, one of the area’s best and most unique restaurants.  I highly recommend it.  (But I guess that’s a subject for another blog entirely…)

Before dinner, we worked off all of the calories we were planning to eat (isn’t that how it works?  We’ll just say it is…) by walking the Price Lake Loop Trail, my first official blog hike.  This 2.7-mile trail is a part of Julian Price Memorial Park, a recreation area with camping facilities, canoe rentals, picnic tables, restrooms, and 3 hiking trails—the Green Knob Trail, the Boone Fork Trail, and the Price Lake Loop Trail.

The trial does, in fact, loop around Price Lake.  There are several access points:  the Price Lake Overlook, where I began; the Boone Fork Overlook; and the canoe and boat rental area.   The trail makes a continuous circle, so that regardless of where, or in which direction, you begin, the trail will bring you back.  While this trail doesn’t offer much in the way of panoramic mountain views, the lake makes for gorgeous scenery and a pleasant walk.

View from the bridge at the Price Lake Overlook
View from the bridge at the Price Lake Overlook

From the parking lot at the Price Lake Overlook, we followed the paved walkway to the left and over the bridge.  There is a lovely view of the lake from this bridge, although the appearance of its size can be deceiving.

The trail enters the woods at the end of the bridge, where a brown sign points you in the right direction.  From here, the trail meanders through dense rhododendron with little change in elevation. The lake is rarely out of view for most of the first half of the trail.  Scattered along this section are several openings to the water’s edge, many of them with large rocks, which serve as excellent spots for fishing, picnicking, or just relaxing.

About a third of the way around the lake, hardwoods and herbaceous plants become more numerous.  Small creeks cross the path, usually with rocks guiding you across.  There is a large, active beaver population in this area, and beaver activity can be seen along the trail in the form of downed trees, chewed to a point.  The end result of this soon appears as you round the back of the lake—multiple extensive beaver dams (huge piles of logs and sticks spanning the width of the stream).  One of these streams is crossed by a footbridge, while the other—more of a wet area than a stream, with the water rising after a recent rain—can be crossed on rocks when the water is low, or a beam and log when the rocks are underwater.

A beaver-chewed tree

A chewed and felled tree, evidence of beaver activity

From this point, the trail follows the lake less closely, eventually moving out of view of it altogether.  The trail on this side of the lake is somewhat hilly, with a few more (small) creek crossings.  The last quarter of the trail is wider with a smooth, edged surface.  Wooden boardwalks carry you over a couple of larger streams and wetland areas.  The trail passes by the boat rental area, where non-motorized boats and canoes can be rented by the hour during summer months.  Continuing past the rental building, the trail, now a paved path, passes in front of the parking area at the Boone Fork Overlook and enters one of the camping areas in the park.  While numerous paved walkways traverse throughout the campground, signs are posted at intersections to keep hikers on the trail.  There are restrooms in this area which are open seasonally.  Soon after leaving the camping area, the trail returns to the Price Lake Overlook, where the path passes in front of the parking area.

I found this trail to be fairly easy, but with a few potential challenges.  Skirting muddy, wet areas of the trail was tricky at times, and crossing streams on wobbly rocks required some balance and skill.  There were two or three occasions when climbing up or down rocks was necessary.  Probably the most challenging element, in my opinion, is the small beam used to cross one of the larger streams, which—if you’re like me and wobbled your way across the balance beams in elementary school—may be difficult for some.  These challenges are few, however, and the hike is an overall relaxing and enjoyable experience.

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~ by theartsynaturalist on September 21, 2010.

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