Really, the title says it all. I’ve been trying to get a goat on the Appalachian Trail for forever!
Is it goat approved? Sort of. As in, no one actually stopped us and it is a WMA where things tend to be a bit more relaxed. However, since it is a Wildlife Management Area…cover the critter that looks like a deer with orange unless you want to have some exciting new bullet holes through your expensive goat. Also, be prepared for AT (Appalachian Trail) thru hikers who are not happy about dogs or goats. Fortunately, when you are far enough into the woods…no one can hear you scream.
How you get there: Google it! You want the Three Forks Trailhead for the Appalachian Trail in Blue Ridge WMA near Long Creek Falls. If you don’t like driving down forest service roads come up from the south on the road instead of from the north. Coming from the north is the usual route Google will try to take you on, so beware. If you do come from the north, the turn for the forest service road occurs after Doublehead Gap dwindles to gravel and just after you pass the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church and its small graveyard.
Time for hike: About 4 miles round trip after you drop by the graveyard. Nothing to get serious about, but a good bomb proofing shake down cruise for a newbie or oldie who hasn’t been out in a while.
Best season to do this hike: Winter only. Weekdays preferable. The walk up to the waterfall PLUS the Appalachian Trail? You’re going to be swamped unless there is a forest fire or the apocalypse.
Trails to Take
This one is easy-peasy. If for any reason you get turned around, just follow the throngs of people running between Long Creek Waterfall and the Three Forks Trail Head.
You will need to park on the side of the road. You will know you are at the parking area if you: A. See a lot of cars, no matter the time of year or day; and or B. See a wooden foot bridge crossing a creek to one side of the road way. Most likely you will notice A before reaching B.
The trail to the falls is on the opposite side of the road from the wooden foot bridge. It is very clear, and a very easy wide open hike. There are some small falls just off the trail before you reach the main one, but if you’re bustling through the crowd with a goat you probably want to stick with just heading to the main falls.
Long Creek Falls is down a very short side trail at the junction between the Appalachian Trail and the Ben MacKaye Trail. It is marked with a sign, as is the trail junction. The waterfall itself comes into view within half a minute of walking.
After visiting the waterfall you can go back to the AT and continue along it. After a while the AT will come up on a wildlife opening, (read: big open unkempt field). It will then cross a gravel road where a homemade wooden sign will direct you to “cemetery and shed” down the road to your left. This takes you to the Hickory Flat Cemetery, a small cemetery with a campsite, a picnic shelter, a unique type of merry-go-round, and some bathrooms which are pretty much always locked. On the way to the cemetery there is a small gravel headstone in memory not of a person, but of a school. However, remains of the school, and of the church that planted the cemetery have eroded away with time.
After lunch at the picnic shelter its an easy goat-who-is-recovering-from-knee-surgery walk back to the car, entirely downhill.
- This is a super popular trail with everyone who goes on foot – AT thru hiker trail snobs. AT thru hiker’s who haven’t washed in three days and have beards suitable for hiding a whole box of crackers in. Small children. Random city dwellers. Princesses even maybe. Great for bomb proofing…but not for relaxing!
- Mountain laurel is abundant on the trail…which is poisonous to goats.
- This hike is really short. But you can walk out to Hawk Mountain Shelter or something to make it less boring. Or climb up Ben MacKaye Trail.
- This is a hunting WMA. But on this trail you probably don’t have to worry about it.
- Honestly, the only thing you have to worry about that is unique on this trail is AT thru hikers. To understand AT thru hikers imagine yourself at a party. You find yourself standing, beer in hand, in an unfamiliar group of people, who while they drink the same beer you do discuss how great their knowledge of the beer is and how much better they are at drinking it. Sound annoying? Avoid the AT thru hikers.
- If you plan to camp, know ahead of time that camping is restricted along the Forest Service Road and there are only about 6 or so campsites that are very likely to be filled. You would be better off planning to camp up Ben MacKaye or farther out on the AT away from Long Creek Falls or any of the AT shelters.
In sum: The greatest moment of life is watching a goat commit an epic fail and eat mud. It’s even better than a cat epic fail video because the goat is more embarrassed.