Award for trail design and construction presented by Senator Burr, Rep. Meadows


The national Coalition of Recreational Trails has granted its annual achievement award for trail design and construction to Conserving Carolina and its trails coordinator, Peter Barr, for Wildcat Rock Trail. Conserving Carolina opened this 3-mile trail in the Hickory Nut Gorge to the public in 2017.


Senator Richard Burr and Representative Mark Meadows presented the award to Barr on Tuesday, June 2, on Capitol Hill. Marianne Fowler, co-chair of the Coalition of Recreational Trails presided over the ceremony. Barr was joined by Jay Leutze, representing the Blue Ridge Forever coalition.


The Wildcat Rock Trail features exceptionally sustainable trail design to protect surrounding natural resources, which include rare species and sensitive natural habitats. It traverses 166 acres of natural lands forever protected by Conserving Carolina.


Barr designed the trail in 2014 and managed its construction over the next four years. The three-mile trail incorporates more than 300 masoned stone stairs that ascend Little Bearwallow Mountain, reaching a 100-foot waterfall and scenic Wildcat Rock on the way.


Its curvilinear design—using constant undulations and subtle changes of direction—quickly sheds water from the trail, which prevents erosion. It also enhances the experience of hikers by making its course feel more natural and interesting.


Volunteers played a significant role in the project, including Conserving Carolina’s esteemed Rock Crushers Trail Crew and Carolina Mountain Club’s Friday crew. Altogether, 1,933 volunteer hours were donated to create the Wildcat Rock Trail.


The Wildcat Rock Trail is the newest segment in Conserving Carolina’s emerging Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail loop near the community of Gerton. Once complete, it will connect the Wildcat Rock to trails at Bearwallow Mountain, Florence Nature Preserve, and the Trombatore Trail in a 20-mile hiking circuit.


Wildcat Rock is also part of the new Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, which was designated by the NC General Assembly last year. With additions of the Wildcat Rock Trail and the recently opened Weed Patch Mountain Trail in Lake Lure, the state trail network now totals 35 miles.


To visit the Wildcat Rock Trail, hikers can start at the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead on Highway 74A, east of Gerton. The trailhead can be reached in about a 40 minute drive from Asheville or Hendersonville.


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