Laurel River Trail (Madison County)

It's all about the river

Author - Jim Williams

Difficulty Level - ModerateDifficulty level:


Mostly single track trails.  There will be moderate to difficult elevation gains.  Remember we live along and in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They don’t call them mountains without a reason.  The distances will be a little longer and you’ll be carrying snacks and water.

Shoes: Light - Medium
A light to medium weight hiking boot that supports the ankle.

TOTAL DISTANCE: 7 miles - round trip

If you want to travel a little, here’s a trail I really like.


Difficulty: Moderate


Shoes:  A light to medium weight hiking boot that supports the ankle.


Time:  Expect to spend about 3 hours on the trail if you plan to go to the confluence of French Broad River and Laurel River and back. 


Distance:  Total distance round trip is 7 miles.  


Safety:  This is a pretty flat trail.  I have rated this as a moderate hike mainly because it starts as a wide gravel path but after about a mile it turns into a single path with rocks and roots.  Bring water.


Courtesy:  You may encounter some bike riders.  Give them room to pass.




From Marion, it will take about an hour and a half.  First head to Asheville then take Hwy 240 to Hwy 26 north to Weaverville.  When you’re on Hwy 26 headed north, go on past New Stock Rd then look for exit 19A which will take you to Marshall and Hot Springs.  Head west toward Hot Springs.  You’ll be on Hwy 25/70.  After about twenty miles, you will get to the intersection of 25/70 and Hwy 208.  Turn left across the bridge and then turn left into the parking lot of the Laurel River Store. 


If the store is open; go inside and meet either Jemima or Matt Cook.  They are the owners/operators of the store.  They will point you to the parking area and tell you about the hike.  When we were there, we talked to Jemima who freely discussed the trail and had a great deal of information about other trails in the area and info about the rivers.  They are people who obviously support the outdoor lifestyle.  They’re our kind of people.  It was a pleasure to talk with her.  The store is a great place to get snacks and water.  I recommend you stop by after the hike and have a cappuccino.  But that’s just me.


If the store is closed; Go back across the bridge, turn right then immediately go right into the parking area.  That is the trailhead.


THE TRAIL:  From the parking area go to the end in the opposite direction from the bridge.  You’ll see the paths that are headed downhill a little.  There are two paths; they join a little further down the trail.  Either one is fine.


There’s a short downhill then you’ll be walking along the Laurel River.  Very soon you will see a house on the left side of the trail.  For a short distance you’re on private property.  Just walk on by unless you are interested in renting the house for a longer stay.  We found some brochures about the place located at the trailside.


I’m not going to describe the trail any more.  Just relax and enjoy the river.  Jemima Cook at the Laurel River Store says that if you hike this in the hot weather, you might want to take something you can get wet because there are some swimming holes along the route.  If you are fortunate enough to talk to her, ask her about the ruins of the town at the end of the trail. 


I saw a little debris along the trail.  It could be from past floods.  Please don’t add to it.  What you take in - take out.