Only a few miles north of 40, Rough Creek Watershed is a delightful find. A heavily forested, perpetually flower-filled, protected watershed, this loop provides the best of what Rough Creek has to offer, with additional mileage, adventuring, and/or elevation gain available for those who want it.
Driving in is not well marked. When you see a gate on the left and a sign on the road ahead saying "no parking. Private property" etc., turn left and go through the gate (close it behind you).
Using the driving directions from the app and google should guide you appropriately.
Starting at the parking area (note the parking guidance in "need to know") you'll follow the access trail (an old dirt road) up a consistent grade climbing alongside Rough Creek. This section climbs 500 feet in 0.8 miles, so it's a good warm up.
To the right, somewhat hidden, about 0.4 miles up is a falls where rough creek cascades down. Continue to follow the trail. When you get excited about a brief downhill, the climbing is almost over.
After 0.8 miles you'll reach a trail junction with the Rough Creek Inner Loop
. This description takes you to the right, so you have the pleasure of running down Cherry Cove Trail
. Enjoy the creek as it passes through this section and the birds and dense forest that accompanies it.
As you follow the creek to the right there will be other old road beds you'll pass, but the path should be clear (us the TRP app, if you have any hesitance).
At about the 1.5 mile point, you'll reach a junction with the Rough Creek Outer
section. The Inner Trail continues to the left. You'll head right at the 'Y' and begin more climbing. At this point you'll follow old fencing that delineated the boundary of the protected watershed when it used to provide the water for Canton. Continue to climb, with just enough steep downhill sections to break it up.
You'll reach an area where the forest begins to open up and there will be a couple of houses on the other side of the fence. When the trail reaches a gate, to your left will be Cherry Cove Trail
. This is where the real joy of this hike begins.
Hopefully you've arrived at a time where the wildflowers are dense (they seem to be at all times but winter). It only gets better along this trail.
The upper section of Cherry Cove Trail
rolls not gaining or losing a lot of elevation, but carrying you through forest, through tunnels made by mountain laurel and rhododendron (both, amazing in spring), and over creeks. There are several sections along a hillside where the trillium are ridiculously abundant in the spring, like no where else I've seen. The rest of the year there is an abundance of blackberries and other wildflowers.
This trail continues to roll until it briefly climbs, with the aid of a switchback or two, to the old dirt road that follows the boundary of the watershed. However, this is your sign to turn around and look for the turn at the last switchback. There will be a little path through a couple of trees to a rocky overlook that is quite surprising to find here. It is a gorgeous view and a great place to relax and grab a bite as it is (almost) all downhill from here.
When back on the trail, head back up to the old dirt road and take a left. The Cherry Cove Trail
re-enters the forest a couple hundred feet down. This is a gentle, smooth singletrack, dropping at a delightful grade to allow for a fun hike that lasts a little less than a mile. This stretch goes through more heavily forested sections that still seem to be abundant with flowers.
The Cherry Cove Trail
then deposits you back on the Rough Creek Inner Loop
, a bit further down than where you left it. Take a right and this stretch will roll up and down through more dense forest with the occasional creek, before dropping back to the junction with the Rough Creek Access Trail
At the junction, hang a right and bomb down the Rough Creek Access Trail
to return to the TH.
Rough Creek Watershed is owned by Canton Water. It was originally protected because it was the supply of water for the city, before it built a facility to draw water from the Pigeon River.