Asheville, NC: Cedar Rock Loop - Backpacker

Asheville, NC: Cedar Rock Loop

Climbing granite slickrock to a highpoint above DuPont State Forest, this 4.4-mile loop jogs back down into a dense forest toward a trailside swimming hole.

At just 4.4 miles, this loop through DuPont State Forest samples a bit of everything this lesser-used North Carolina trail system has to offer. You'll find sustained sections of granite slabs, a white pine and hemlock forest with a diverse floral population, and solitary riverside swimming holes. Start heading east (past the junction with Longside Trail) and pick up the Big Rock Trail, heading north along cobblestone singletrack crowded by rhododendron. The trail soon opens up into a broad cairn-finding quest up exposed slabs of granite slickrock (dotted with moss and lichen). Just 0.8 mile in, the trail tops out at a granite clearing on Cedar Rock, where high-summer hikers can enjoy fresh blueberries and views of neighboring ridgelines. Dropping back down into a diverse deciduous forest, the hike wanders along the Little River before detouring south down to the Corn Mill Shoals, an idyllic swimming hole (complete with water slide) just down stream from DuPont’s popular falls. Soak it all in (and soak in it) before hiking 1.1 miles back to the trailhead. -Mapped by Tim Johnson

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.1



Location: 35.1729393, -82.6388779

From the parking area, cross Cascade Lake Road and pass through a yellow gate onto Corn Mill Shoals Trail (a woods road). Continue straight @ intersection with Longside Trail on left.


Location: 35.1720467, -82.6374512

Go left @ Y-junction on the Big Rock Trail. Begin a steady ascent on rolling singletrack over rocky cobblestone, passing rhododendron thickets. Hike through scattered areas of woods and granite slickrock. Rock cairns lead the way over the exposed granite dome dotted by fragile moss and lichen. Look west for a nice view the distant ridges.


Location: 35.1792183, -82.6340942

At the summit of Cedar Rock (3,080 ft.), make a hard left into a large, open flat area. Just 120 feet later, take another left @ the T-intersection onto the Cedar Rock Trail. Although this peak rises only 500 feet above the Little River, the granite outcroppings make it an unusual habitat for plants and animals. In late summer, snack on blueberries as you walk through red maple, mountain laurel, and bracken fern. A right turn at this T would shorten the hike, synching up with this track down at waypoint 7


Location: 35.1799126, -82.625351

Emerge from the woods into a powerline clearing and take a hard right to head down the hill for about 200 feet before the trail heads back into the woods on old roadbed (to the right).


Location: 35.1783904, -82.62591

At the fork in the trail, veer left to take the more heavily used route down a steep, rocky descent.


Location: 35.1778831, -82.6245804

Turn right @ T-intersection with the needle-covered Little River Trail. Continue through a mix of white pine and hemlock forest, catching occasional glimpses of Little River to the left. The intertwining branches of dog hobble clog the forest floor.


Location: 35.1724052, -82.6295166

Continue straight @ 3-way intersection with the southern terminus of Cedar Rock Trail. Ahead, cross a small creek on a log footbridge. Hit the trail in early- to mid-July to see blooming bluets (look for their small white flowers) and rhododendron lining the trail.


Location: 35.1673279, -82.6315842

Turn left (almost a U-turn) @ 3-way junction onto the Corn Mill Shoals Trail. Continue along sandy trail on mostly even terrain.


Location: 35.1654968, -82.6285248

Stay left ahead on the Corn Mill Shoals Trail @ 3-way intersection with Burnt Mountain Trail.


Location: 35.1665115, -82.6279373

Enjoy Corn Mill Shoals, a gentle water slide and popular swimming spot on the Little River. Water flows over the smooth granite as it slowly makes its way to the French Broad River. From here, backtrack to Waypoint 8, and turn left on the Corn Mill Shoals Trail.


Location: 35.1675529, -82.6319656

At the intersection with Burnt Mountain Trail (just northwest of Waypoint 8), head west on Corn Mill Shoals Trail along a wide gravel road. Look for a variety of plants (non-native lespedeza, native Joe Pye weed, and trailing arbutus) as the trail winds north. At Waypoint 2, turn left to return to the trailhead.

Longside Trail Junction

Location: 35.1729355, -82.6381073

©Tim Johnson

The First Junction

Location: 35.1720428, -82.6374512

©Tim Johnson

Armored Trail

Location: 35.1731023, -82.6368588

©Tim Johnson

Granite Slickrock

Location: 35.1752853, -82.6352692

©Tim Johnson

Grassy Granite

Location: 35.1766541, -82.6355284

©Tim Johnson

Pockets of Pitch Pine

Location: 35.1787412, -82.6355124

©Tim Johnson

Northwest Views

Location: 35.1791725, -82.6353989

©Tim Johnson

Cedar Rock Trail Intersection

Location: 35.1790581, -82.633728

©Tim Johnson

The Granite Path

Location: 35.1787376, -82.6284866

©Tim Johnson

Powerline Clearing

Location: 35.1799316, -82.6252136

©Tim Johnson

Little River Trail Intersection

Location: 35.1778793, -82.6246109

©Tim Johnson

Little River

Location: 35.1755066, -82.6254425

©Tim Johnson

Cedar Rock Trail

Location: 35.1724129, -82.6295166

The south terminus of the Cedar Rock Trail. ©Tim Johnson


Location: 35.1696815, -82.6288605

©Tim Johnson

Corn Mill Shoals Junction

Location: 35.1673203, -82.6315842

Looking back (from the west) on the U-turn junction of the Little River Trail and the Corn Mill Shoals Trail. ©Tim Johnson

Down to the Shoals

Location: 35.1655083, -82.6285248

©Tim Johnson

Horse Tie Lines

Location: 35.1661072, -82.6279831

©Tim Johnson

Corn Mill Shoals

Location: 35.1666565, -82.6281586

©Tim Johnson

Corn Mill Shoals

Location: 35.1667175, -82.6282272

©Tim Johnson

Corn Mill Shoals

Location: 35.1667328, -82.6282654

©Tim Johnson

Gravel Trail

Location: 35.1705437, -82.6369476

©Tim Johnson