Rough Creek Watershed
in Haywood Co, NC

View from Trail in Rough Creek Watershed

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for full size/full resolution pic.

Rough Creek is one of a number of creeks which flow southward from the north, eventually emptying into the Pigeon River. Its watershed is composed of the southeast facing slopes of Newfound and Glades Mountain, and the northwest facing slopes of Rocky Knob and the ridge that runs north from that peak's base.

The creek's very beginnings are in a relatively level area that lies around the 4300 foot contour line, and is composed flat marshland that includes an area of seeps, which used to be very prevalent, but are becoming less and less so as lands get built up and developed.

Rough Creek's watershed is composed of around 870 acres, and while not public property (it is owned by the town of Canton, NC), this land IS open to the public for day use for both hiking and mountain biking. Note however, that dogs are not permitted. (My regular 4-legged hiking buddy was disappointed to be left home when I did this hike.)

This land's history includes settlement by Europeans in the early 1800's (one can still find signs of this including old stone fence lines, plantings, and old apple orchards).

In the early 1900's, the town of Canton used the creek as its water source. And in the 1970's and 80's, the area was logged.

The area's most unique part of its history includes almost becoming a nuclear waste dump site by the US Department of Energy in the mid-1980's. These plans were halted when citizens from the area took samples of Rough Creek's water to Washington, showing the creek water's cleanliness and purity.

It is so fortunate that the nuclear waste dump never came to be, since even today, the water found in Rough Creek's Watershed is classified by the state of North Carolina as an outstanding water resource. The purity of the water rivals and often exceeds comparison to other protected waters in the state.

Above information from the      
Rough Creek Watershed Brochure

This watershed area is surrounded on both sides by developed areas, and you'll see houses from the trails that go along the western perimeter of the preserve, and even more so along the trail that follows the northeastern edge. But aside from those two locations, all the rest of the hiking has you going thru open forest, along creeks, and along rhododendron lined marshes. Most of the trails in this area are old roads, and provide wide hiking and biking pathways. There is one single track trail that heads up to the area's most spectacular feature ... that of the views from the northwest ridgeline. The photo at the top of this page shows that fantastic view, as well as below.

View from Trail in Rough Creek Watershed

View from the western perimeter of Rough Creek Watershed


Up until recently (Dec., 2013) I have not found any maps of the trails of this area. Carolina Mountain Club has this map posted on their website, which shows the same loop I've got described in this post and mapped in my GPS below. But other than that, there was none to be found.

However, a reader left a comment on a November, 2013 CMC article mentioning that Pisgah Map Company has put out a free map of this area. Looking over that page, it appears to be a pdf map for your phone, as opposed to an interactive map that uses your phone's GPS.

Also, the city of Canton has published this map on their website about the area.

The GPS track from my hike and its associated map are shown below. I've marked each of the other trail intersections along this loop in that GPS track, and since my hike pretty much encompassed the entire perimeter of the watershed, and the entire watershed seems to be fenced along its periphery, if you're comfortable wandering around to "see where this goes", you'll eventually end up somewhere within or near the GPS track I've got posted.

The elevation profile, map, and trip report all refer to the 7.7 mile loop hike referenced.

Elevation Profile of the trail
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Elevation Profile

Click here for a larger map

GPX data for download (zip file which includes both GPX format, as well as GDB format for Garmin users):
Rough Creek Watershed Hiking Loop.


The Rough Creek Watershed is in northern Haywood County, NC, north of the town of Canton.

If coming from Asheville, NC take I-40 W to exit 33 and go straight ahead onto Freedom Road. If coming from the west, once you exit at exit 33, turn left onto Newfound Road, go across the freeway, and immediately turn left onto Freedom road. Freedom road comes to a "T" at Beaverdam Road (SR 1613). Turn right and follow Beaverdam for 2 miles. Turn left on Rice Cove Road (you'll see a sign for Beaverdam United Methodist Church). In about 0.4 mile, at the "T", turn right on Rough Water Road and follow it till it ends, about 0.3 mile.

At the end of this road you'll see a gravel road bearing hard to the right, Rough Creek straight ahead of you, and a drive to your left with a closed gate that says "Private Drive. Keep Gate Closed". THIS gated drive to your left is where you go!! Open the gate (yup .. the one that says 'Private Drive - Keep Gate Closed'), drive through, and be sure to re-close the gate behind you.

Entrance to Rough Creek Watershed

Entrance to Rough Creek Watershed

The parking area is 0.3 mile up this drive, which is a very steep, very narrow, sort of paved roadway. All the information I read said to "watch for oncoming traffic", but I don't know what good that would do, since if you run into any, there's no where for either of you to go!!

As you near the top of the drive, you'll see an old building with a level parking area in front of it on your left. Make the hard left to turn in here, and park.

Parking area for Rough Creek Watershed

Parking area for Rough Creek Watershed, and the drive coming up from Rough Water Road
(looking down the drive from the trailhead)

If you look a little farther up the road, you will see the Watershed's trailhead on your left, and the caretaker's home and some old water treatment structures farther up the drive.

Caretaker's House

Looking up the Drive from the parking area at Caretaker's House

Once you park, hike up the drive and turn left at the marked trailhead. Quite soon, you'll come to another gate, and this one doesn't open. You either have to climb over it, or go through it, which its metal gridwork actually makes quite easy.

The first mile has you climbing steadily, paralleling Rough Creek, gaining 500 feet in elevation over the course of that mile. At the top of this climb, you come to a "T", where you can start your loop.

The day I did this loop, I turned left here. Over the course of the next 0.4 mile, you pass 2 of what will be many more unlabeled trail intersections. At the 3rd trail intersection, 0.4 mile from the "T" at the top of the first mile's climb, I bore right.

View from Trail in Rough Creek Watershed

Bear right at this intersection

This began a gentle climb in and out of the coves that lie along the southeast face of Glade Mountain. 1.2 miles from making the turn at the 3rd intersection (1.6 miles from the "T" at the top of the first mile's climb), the single track Cherry Cove Trail bears off to the left. This trail is actually marked with a trail sign!!

Cherry Cove Trail climbs 400 feet in elevation over the next 1.1 mile, coming out at the ridge top which gives you the fantastic views shown at the top of this page.

After following the fence line with its tremendous views for a short distance, Cherry Cove Trail (again, still well signed) turns right and bears northeast away from the watershed's perimeter. After a tenth of a mile, you come to a small rock outcropping that gives views to the east.

After leaving the rock outcropping, over the next 1 1/4 miles, you stay more or less around the 4300 contour line, and head a little bit further north into the preserve, then east over to its eastern perimeter. It is through this area you see the land change from open forest, to a boggy, marshy, seep type of land, with thick rhododendrons all around. There are several bridges to take you across some of the wetter areas.

You then come out onto the portion of the trail that borders the preserve's eastern border. This point gives you quite a contradictory juxtaposition of views .. you emerge from thick rhodo swampy area onto a dry open ridge with houses RIGHT adjacent to the fence line.

The next mile is by far the most boring portion of this loop ... you drop almost 900 feet in elevation, following a wide old road that goes STRAIGHT down the ridge. As you near the base, you do get some nice views to the east, including Pisgah Mountain (easy to identify with its antenna right at the peak).

At the base of the long descent, you see an old overgrown trail that continues straight, heading steeply up 400 feet in elevation to the peak of Rocky Knob (don't go that way); instead, follow the trail that bears right and soon rejoins Rough Creek. At this point, you are again treated to the greenery of rhododendrons, and the sounds of the rushing creek.

Trail along Rough Creek

Over the course of the next 0.6 mile, you follow Rough Creek and close your loop as you return to the top of the "T" ... the top of the one mile climb up from the parking area. Turn left here to return to the trailhead.

More pictures in my flickr set from this hike.

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