The Explorers Trail
ElevationAscent: 1,295' 395 m
Descent: -1,496' -456 m
High: 896' 273 m
Low: 591' 180 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)
Current trail conditions
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“A Boy Scout troop built the Explorers Trail (aka La Trainee de L’Explorateur) in the 1960s or 1970s.”— nick harrington
Family Friendly There are many park amenities along the trail. Families can utilize portions of the trail as a smaller hike.
1. The parking lot at the end McFarlan Ridge Road.
2. The parking lot (small gravel lot) on West Fork Rd, across from the beginning of the "J" Trail
From the trailhead at McFarlan Rdige Road, there is a post marked "E START" along the left side of the clearing. Follow the clearing, until slips into the woods. You'll see another post marked "E". Follow the trail to a clearing with stone benches and a fire ring, then go straight to a steep descent to a large creek junction. Cross the main creek to the left and you'll see a large post (similar to a totem pole). Once across the creek, turn left and follow a gravel service road along the creek. After a while, you'll come to another major creek junction and another "Totem Pole". Turn right along the creek bed. You'll follow and criss cross the creek bed staying on the service road. Once you come to the third (final) creek junction, cross to the right side of the main creek, walk about 100 feet, and the trail will continue up hill to the right. Continue to the top of the ridge to a picnic area. The is the end of the McFarlan Woods section and the beginning of the Diehl Rd. section.
Continue straight, and the trail will dead end on a horse trail in a grassy brier patch area. Turn right and continue to follow the blazes along the ridge and back down the other side of the hill. The trail will dead end again on another portion of the service road and you'll turn left. One you come to another main creek crossing, turn left and go back into the woods. Follow the trail through and up and over the next ridge; once up and over the ridge, the trail will dead end at the beginning of the service road. Turn left and follow the road as it becomes Diehl Rd. Follow Diehl Rd. to Shepherd Creek Rd. Turn right on Shepherd Creek Rd. and walk down hill and under I-74. Here, the trail will re-enter the woods on the right, just before a small gravel parking lot. This ends the Diehl Rd. section and begins the West Fork section.
Continue along the trail (Diehl Ridge Trail) up the hill and along the ridge. At the end of the ridge you'll cross over and descend the other side, criss crossing towards Shepherd Creek. The trail follows southeast, above the creek and dead ends at a bridge on West Fork Rd. Cross the bridge and walk along West Fork Rd. (northwest) to Mt. Airy Forest "Area 24" (picnic area). This ends the West Fork section and begins the Mt. Airy section.
The Mt. Airy section is less difficult to follow as the trails are better maintained and intersections are well marked with trail name posts.
From the picnic area, follow the L Trail (Cedar Trail) to the right and up hill to take a right onto F Trail (Furnas Trail) this leads to D Trail (Quarry Trail). Turn right and follow this to B Trail (Ponderosa Trail). Another right follows "B" until it merges with C Trail (Red Oak Trail). Continue (but stay on "B") to A Trail. Follow "A" until it dead ends on Oak Ridge Rd. Follow (right) along the road to "Everybody's Tree House", a cool wooden viewing platform. From the tree house, start H Trail and continue down to the creek. Cross the creek and continue up the other side of the ravine and dead end at Pine Ridge Rd. Go right and follow the road to Blues Spruce Rd. Enter the woods at the intersection and follow Arboretum Trail E to the Arboretum Center. Turn left and follow Larch Ridge Trail, through the clearing, back into the woods and down to Shepherd Creek Rd. Turn left and re-enter to the left after crossing the intersection of Blue Spruce Rd. You'll see an "E" post sign. Follow "E" uphill to J Trail. Follow "J" back to West Fork Rd. The trail ends at W Fork Rd. near another gravel parking lot where you have hopefully parked your car!