Lakeshore Trail - West begins just over a half-mile north of the Fontana Dam where the Appalachian Trail leaves the pavement. The trail quickly leaves a hard-pack roadbed to navigate on singletrack through a hollow drained by Payne Branch.
Just shy of a mile-and-a-half in, the trail returns to the wide trace on the remains of NC288 - several abandoned vehicles can be found during this stretch. After a mile, the trail once again departs the roadbed for steeper singletrack that follows a stream for a short distance. During the next three miles, the terrain undulates and climbs to dry-ridge exposures then drops into hollows before climbing over the next adjacent ridge. This includes a deep recess in the defile between the Shuckstack Ridge and Snakeden Ridge. The grade is moderately steep but the track is fairly smooth.
The grade descends deeply into Lost Cove where it intersects the lower terminus of the Lost Cove Trail
and the Lost Cove Backcountry Campsite (#90) on the Eagle Creek embayment. The rushing stream, filtered sunlight, and riot of forest vegetation in the area make a splendid setting.
Past the camp, the trail follows a level grade as it traces the mile-long curve of Horseshoe Bend. A quarter-mile into the bend, the trail crosses Eagle Creek and shortly intersects the Eagle Creek Trail
. Make the turn to the right into the rough cut away from the railroad grade. A moderately steep grind follow as the trail climbs Pinnacle Ridge before descending to Possom Hollow.
The approach into Possum Hollow is an exercise in negotiating the fringe ridges of Pinnacle Ridge. Eventually the trail drops in alongside Shehan Branch to pick up an old wagon road. Along the way, a number of feeder streams and abandoned homesites embellish the trailside. A stone retaining wall signals the approach of Possum Hollow Backcountry Campsite (#88).
A couple hundred yards farther downstream, a grassy clearing marks the end of a gravel road. On the left, a steep access path leads to Bradshaw Cemetery. Below the turnaround, the trail follows a light-gravel road on a level course. When it reaches the mouth of the hollow the roadbed veers left away from the Shehan Branch. On the left, an access path leads to the Proctor Cemetery.
Before reaching Hazel Creek, the trail descends gently, makes a short steep climb along a wagon road trace, and then descends again to the intersection with the Hazel Creek Trail
above the heavily used Proctor Backcountry Campsite (#86).
This content was contributed by author Ken Wise. For a comprehensive hiking guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and to see more by Ken, click here
The slopes along the start of the trail sport a healthy canopy of oaks, particularly northern red, southern red, chestnut, and white oak, but still sufficiently open to afford several glimpses of Fontana Lake.
Leading into Lost Cove hemlocks and rhododendron are prevalent in the hollows with rue anemones and trilliums dotting the trailside. Out on the ridgelines, a mix of oaks and pines are the primary forest cover.
The southern exposure as the trail climbs Pinnacle Ridge is forested with red maples, black gums, Fraser magnolias, and a variety of oaks. On the drier slopes, pines prevail and several varieties of weeds encroach.
Pignut hickory trees, and eastern hemlocks can be found along the approach to Possum Hollow. In the wetter places, Solomon’s-seal, large-flowered bellwort, meadow parsnip, rue anemone, whorled loosestrife, pipsissewa, flame azalea, blood- root, rattlesnake plantain, and black cohosh are conspicuous.