“A nine-mile loop that climbs from stream to ridge-top and back several times.
— Ranger Danger
Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
This 9.5 mile loop starts and ends at Martin's Fork. Enjoy Gray's Arch and Pinch-em Tight Trail, as well as the rock drawings and old saltpeter mine. The trail is scenic and rich in native flora. During wet weather, a beautiful waterfall forms at the arch.
Starting at Martins Fork, head back towards Nada, cross the footbridge and begin your climb. At about 0.75 miles, branch off towards your right to D Boon Hut Trail #209
. Shortly after, notice the fence around the face of a rock; this is one of the easily viewable petroglyphs in this area and worth pausing for. While you are doing that, prepare yourself for the uphill that is coming shortly after the hut. When your hamstrings are burning, you'll know you are almost to the end of this trail.
When you come out at the Gray's Arch parking area, follow the path towards your left to Gray's Arch Trail #205
. Take this for about a 0.25 miles, and make a right at the intersection of Rough Trail #221
. Stay on Rough Trail, making sure to take the spur about a mile in for the awesome view of Gray's Arch. Continue down the hill to King Branch. Now it's time to climb again! The next 0.75 miles is uphill, but you are rewarded at the top by one of the first vistas to be had on this trail.
After the next descent and ascent back out of the branch, you'll hit a couple of switchbacks. Look for the spur to Hanson's point off to your left just at the top of these. If you are not feeling the extra couple of miles, continue on toward your right and follow Pinch-em Tight Trail #223
. This is your rest section, for the next couple of miles. You'll be hugging the ridge and won't see much elevation change. Plus the views are fantastic.
At Tunnel Ridge Road, make a right to continue back to Gray's Arch Parking, continue back on Gray's Arch Trail #205
but instead of making a right, this time go left, which will put you back on the Rough Trail #221
. Pay attention to the ridgeline to your left, as this area of the trail has one of the best vistas in the area and is a nice end to the trail. Continue on Rough Trail #221
to the parking lot.
Flora & Fauna
The rare white-haired goldenrod occurs near Daniel Boone's Hut. The red-breasted nuthatch is seen occasionally near Gray's Arch Trail #205
History & Background
The D Boon Hut Trail #209
leads to a large fenced rock shelter that was once mined for saltpeter. The miners built crude wooden troughs and filled them with sandstone. They poured water through the sand to leach out potassium nitrate, an ingredient used to make gunpowder in the 1800s. Along the same trail you can also see some of the petroglyphs left by Native Americans in years past.