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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Cove spring wildflowers at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Cove spring wildflowers at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Photo by Bill Lea.

Little Sweet Betsy. Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum). Photo by Bill Lea.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Forest: Nantahala National Forest

District: Cheoah Ranger District

Description: Two gentle loop trails, totaling about 2.0 miles, winding through one of the last virgin cove forests in the southern Appalachians, filled with huge trees and ample displays of spring wildflowers. Common wildflowers include blue cohosh, black cohosh, little-sweet-betsy, yellow wake-robin, large-flowered trillium, painted trillium, partridge-berry, crested iris, Dutchman’s-pipe, foamflower, showy orchid, and jack-in-the-pulpit. Best time to enjoy: late April to early May.

Safety First: The Nantahala National Forest receives high recreational use throughout the summer, and traffic along the forest roads can be heavy, especially near developed facilities. Weather in the southern Appalachians is generally mild but wet, with abundant rainfall throughout the year. Higher elevations, however, can experience cold, wet weather at any time during the year. As a result, adequate rain gear and warm clothes are recommended, even during the summer. In addition, trails in the region are often rocky, and require supportive shoes and sure footing.

Although the area contains abundant streams, all surface water should be treated before drinking or cooking. Carry and drink plenty of fluids, and use sunscreen on exposed skin, especially at higher elevations. Biting insects are generally not a problem. Mosquitoes and ticks are present, but usually not a nuisance. Both mosquito and tick bites can transmit diseases, however, and appropriate measures, such as long clothing and repellants, should be used. Gnats are ubiquitous during the growing season, and often become a nuisance, due to both their numbers as well as their persistence. Wildlife encounters with large animals such as black bears and wild boar are unusual but potentially very dangerous. Please take necessary precautions while hiking outdoors.

Directions: From Robbinsville, North Carolina, take U. S. Highway 129 north for 1.5 miles and turn left onto Massey Branch Road (State Highway 143). After 5.0 miles, turn right onto Kilmer Road. After 7.3 miles, bear right at the junction with the Cherohala Skyway, and continue downhill another 2.5 miles to the entrance of the forest. Turn left, into the entrance, and drive another 0.5 miles to the parking area. The parking area contains picnic tables, grills, and modern restrooms; fee site.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District.

Closest Town: Robbinsville, North Carolina.

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