If you go, you will find hikes in both Tea Creek and nearby Cranberry Wilderness to be soggy during the driest times. Downpours are common and stream crossings frequent; expect wet feet because your Gore-Tex boots are not going to cut it here. One hiking colleague happily traversed this loop in Chaco sandals - and he is the most experienced hiker I know. So if you have comfortable hiking sandals, you'd be well served to bring them on this hike.
Mile 0.0 – Start the hike in a parking area just off of the Highlands Scenic Highway that holds 8-10 vehicles. Be sure to check out the Little Laurel Overlook across the highway from the trailhead at the beginning or end of this hike, as you will find the best vistas in this area on turnoffs from the highway. The overlook also has a covered picnic table and a set of privies. At the trailhead, there is a kiosk and trail sign for the Tea Creek Mountain Trail, but this loop is not using that trail. Instead, start the hike by going through the gate at the beginning of the parking lot and follow the metal signs through the meadow.
|View of Parking Lot. Though a trail starts behind the brown sign, we did not take that trail.|
|Follow trail past fence into field.|
|Signposts and mowing denote the trail through the field.|
|After leaving the field, drop down to the first intersection, and turn right.|
|Major trail intersections have signposts with a map to help keep you from getting lost.|
|Hiking the Right Fork Connector (TR 111) through a dark forest of Red Spruce.|
Mile 0.4 – Pass the intersection for the Tea Creek Interpretive Trail (TR 489), continuing straight.
|Gauley Mtn Trail|
|Determining the next route at the Gauley Mtn/Red Run Trail intersection.|
|Red Run Trail as seen from the Gauley Mtn Trail.|
|Gauley Mtn/Bear Pen Ridge Trail intersection.|
|Climbing to the highest point on the trail.|
|So much moss on trails in this area!|
|Tea Creek Shelter, as seen from the trail.|
Keep straight, ascend steeply for a brief period, then come out on the meadow you passed through at the very beginning of this hike.