Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

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Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

Postby DirtRoadRunner » Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:08 pm

If you are looking for a challenging, deserted, and true wilderness hike, this is the place to go. I broke my own rules and hiked this today, on the last day of deer season (I wore an orange vest, but it wasn't even needed because I saw no one). This is not a trip for anyone navigationally-challenged - do not go without a map and compass and a knowledge of how to use one. Trails are faint to non-existant, and the rather gentle topography makes it easy to get lost.

The road to the trailhead on Little Grassy Mountain is unmaintained and rutted pretty bad. I made it up fine in my Subaru, but a car with lower ground clearance might have some problems. The start of the trail is quite scenic as you drop about 300 feet off the south slope of Little Grassy. The trail is very faint and continues for about 2 miles along a ridge top, after which it peters out. I continued south to the summit of Rock Pile Mountain, generally following an old road. However, the road is very faint, and often covered with fallen trees from the 2009 inland hurricane, so I often had to look at my map. I did not find the actual "rock pile", but will come back at another time to look at it. From the summit I walked down the western slope of the mountain to the spectacular shut-ins/waterfalls on Cave Branch Creek, which were flowing nicely due to the recent rain. The occasional glades gave nice partial vistas of other mountains across the St. Francis River.

After enjoying the shut-ins, i hiked to the ridge north of Cave Branch and then went cross-country to the end of the 2-mile "maintained" trail. While my map showed several old roads in this area, I was only able to find them in isolated pieces. For all practical purposes, there are no trails and you have to do your own navigating. The climb back up Little Grassy was steep, but did offer a few long-range vistas of distant mountains, which I believe were Mudlick Mountain the other mountains around Sam A Baker State Park.

I hiked around 10 miles total, including a few very challenging climbs up and down the mountain.

I really liked this wilderness area because it truly feels like a wilderness. It isn't quite a scenic as Bell Mountain Wilderness, but is obviously seldom-visited. I hiked Bell last January and saw around 20 people. I'm guessing less than 20 people a season come to Rock Pile.
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Re: Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

Postby mike » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:00 am

Sounds like an interesting place. I'll have to check it out this winter. Thanks for posting!

Mike
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Re: Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

Postby n3870v » Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:00 pm

Sounds challenging. My daughter would love to test her orienteering skills on this trail.

Where did you get the maps that you used?

Thanks - Sal
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Re: Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

Postby DirtRoadRunner » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:18 am

The MTNF brocure has a map:
https://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUME ... 123270.pdf

I used a portion of the 7.5-minute USGS Rock Pile Mountain top map, which is availble online. Although both maps show numerous trails in the wilderness, only the 2-mile trail south of the trailhead is somewhat easy to follow. The rest are old roads and are difficult or impossible to follow (and are therefore a great test of orienteering skills!).

I plan to come back sometime this winter/spring and check out Turkey Pen Hollow, and walk all the way down to the river.
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Re: Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness

Postby ashleyco » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:15 am

Sounds like an interesting place.
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