Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White Rock Tower Trail - April 3, 2009

Less than two months after my Rough Mountain Wilderness Hike, I had to head out west for Boy Scout leader training so I decided to explore the Rich Hole Wilderness.  Both wildernesses overlook Interstate 64 west of Lexington.  Although I originally intended to hike the Rich Hole Trail that bisects the Rich Hole Wilderness, I quickly abandoned that trail when I encountered the raging North Branch of Simpson Creek, which the Rich Hole Trail crosses  virtually immediately.  Time for an alternate route.

The White Rock Trail didn't seem very interesting, but it had a major aspect in its favor - it left from the same parking area.  The trail starts off on a roadway, and eventually reaching a gate where the road turns into a trail.  The trail climbs in a remarkably consistent manner to the site of an old fire tower, now dismantled.  From the bottom to the top, the trail is 2.12 miles long and the grade is 14%.  Yet the steepest portion of this trail is only 16%.  No doubt this consistency can be attributed to the trail's former life as a road to the fire tower.

The trail, though skirting the edge of a federally designated wilderness area, was never quiet because it overlooked Interstate 64 and road noise was constant. I was also in sight of cell towers and received a call from a friend during the hike, allowing me to describe to him a potential campsite as I walked.
The land below levels out and this is clearly an established campsite.
The campsite was nice and flat, though the rest of the mountain was not. I wonder if it has some relation to the fire tower and was constructed in the distant past, rather than a natural feature. This would be a nice place to spend a night, assuming you can sleep though the traffic noise through the night and do not mind going 2/3 of the way up the mountain only to possibly find that someone has gotten there before you.

At the top of the mountain, the trail rides the crest for a while before descending the ridge and, maps claim, turning into another road.
A view from the top of the ridge.
The dark ridge is the Rough Mountain Wilderness.
The two ridges beyond are in Douthat State Park.
It would seem that the Forest Service could easily create a loop trail, as the road system on the other side comes within a mile or two of the original trail.  Since I had a commitment, however, I made this an out-and-back hike.

It is possible that all of the area hiked may someday be part of a wilderness area.  The Forest Service in 2009 has been working on a revision to its Forest Plan for the George Washington National Forest that proposes adding wilderness acreage to the present Rich Hole Wilderness western boundary.

Hike details.
Distance: 4.6 miles
Total Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes.
Steepest Uphill: from 0.9 miles to 2.12 miles; 16% grade.
Starting Elevation:  1533 ft.
Highest Point: 3098 ft.


  1. Do you remember if there was camping at this trailhead?

  2. Yes, at the White Rock Tower trailhead there are flat spots and a few camp sites. At the other Rich Hole trailhead, no sites since it's right off the paved road.


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