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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Dwarf-crested Iris. Dwarf-crested Iris (Iris cristata). Photo by Bill Lea.

Rufus Morgan Trail

Forest: Nantahala National Forest

District: Wayah Ranger District

Description: A gentle, 1.0 mile loop trail takes visitors through a mature cove forest with nice displays of spring wildflowers, and a small waterfall reached by a short side trail. Common wildflowers include crested iris, large flowered-trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, black cohosh, blue cohosh, foamflower, Solomon’s seal, Clinton’s lily, showy orchid, waterleaf, large-flowered bellwort, umbrella-leaf, and turtlehead. Best time to enjoy: mid to late April.

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 Franklin, take U. S. Highway 64 west about 3 miles. Turn right at the signs for the LBJ Job Center/Wayah Bald areas, then left onto Wayah Road (State Route 1310). After 6.5 miles, turn left onto Forest Service Road 388, a well-maintained gravel road that may be gated in winter. Drive 2.0 miles to the parking area. Facilities are not available at the trailhead. Follow the blue blazes into the cove.

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

Closest Town: Franklin, North Carolina.