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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


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

Dicentra cucullaria. Dicentra cucullaria. Photo by Bill Lea.

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

Trillium luteum. Trillium luteum. Photo by Gary Kauffman.

Trillium grandifloria. Trillium grandifloria.

Iris cristata. Iris cristata. Photo by Bill Lea.

Tiarella cordifolia. Tiarella cordifolia. Photo by Gary Kauffman.

Galearis spectabalis. Galearis spectabalis. Photo by Bill Lea.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Loop Trail

Forest: Nantahala National Forest

District: Cheoah Ranger District

Description: Two loop trails, totaling 2.0 miles, wind through a virgin forest named for Joyce Kilmer, a poet and writer in the early 20th century. The loop Trail is shaped in a figure eight pattern. On the lower slopes it traverses through an acidic cove forest dominated by tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), black birch (Betula lenta), yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava), and sadly dead eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). A dense evergreen shrub layer, primarily white rosebay (Rhododendron maximum), occurs throughout the understory. The upper slopes along the trail support a rich cove forest dominated by tulip poplar, yellow buckeye, basswood (Tilia americana var. heterophylla), red oak (Quercus rubra), silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), and cucumber-tree (Magnolia acuminata).

Wildflower viewing: During the spring, mid-March to early May, the greatest profusion of wildflowers is present in the area. In the acidic cove forest early spring has some scattered trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) partridge berry (Mitchella repens), little brown jug (Hexastylis arifolia), and rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera repens). Within the open understory rich cove forest a very lush herb layer occurs among the many sedges, including the large leaved seersucker sedge (Carex plantaginea), and ferns, including maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum). Showy tree species include silverbell and cucumber-tree. Early blooming herbs include wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), star chickweed (Stellaria pubescens), slender toothwort (Cardamine angustata), cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucularia), and yellow round violet (Viola rotundifolia). Other violets are plentiful with hairy yellow forest violet (Viola pubescens), spearleaf violet (Viola hastata), sweet white violet (Viola blanda), long-spurred violet (Viola rostrata), confederate violet (Viola sororia), blue marsh violet (Viola cucullata) and the late blooming tall white violet (Viola canadensis).

A profusion of Trillium species are present across the cove including little-sweet-betsy (Trillium cuneatum), yellow wake-robin (Trillium luteum), large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Vasey’s Trillium (Trillium vaseyi), and painted trillium (Trillium undulatum).

Other common herbs include blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), speckled wood-lily (Clintonia umbellulata), crested iris (Iris cristata), yellow fairybells (Prosartes lanuginosa), (hairy Solomon’s-seal (Polygonatum pubescens), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), miterwort (Mitella diphylla), turk’s-cap lily (Lilium superbum), large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), dutchman’s pipe (Isotrema macrophyllum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), false goat’s-beard (Astilbe biternata), showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis), and puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale).

Blooms are sparse in the summer and fall, mainly consisting of starry campion (Stellaria stellata), stonewort (Collinsonia canadensis), blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium), white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), and Curtis’s goldenrod (Solidago curtisii).

Safety First: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest receives high recreational use throughout the summer. 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. As a result, adequate rain gear is recommended. 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, or poisonous snakes are unusual but potentially could be dangerous. Please take necessary precautions while hiking outdoors.

Directions: From Robbinsville, 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 road to Joyce Kilmer Wilderness. Turn left, drive another 0.5 miles to the parking area. The parking area contains picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. It is a fee site.

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

Nearest Town: Robbinsville, North Carolina.