Last April, I hiked all the trails in the Twentymile section of the park with the exception of a 1.1 mile stretch of Wolf Ridge. On my way to a fungi class at Highlands Biological Station in early August, I make a brief detour to finish the job on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The Wolf Ridge junction is a half mile up Twentymile Trail, immediately past the first bridge. This bridge crosses Moore Springs Branch, and Wolf Ridge Trail dances with this stream, weaving first to one side then the other for a total of five crossings within the first 1.1 miles. All crossings are on sturdy foot logs, though the first has some spring to it that causes the far end embedded in the ground to move slightly — just a tad disconcerting.
The branch is wide with a hearty water flow and would definitely produce wet feet without these bridges. Early versions of the ‘Little Brown Book’ noted at least two, maybe three of these crossings as unbridged. Thanks to additional bridges here and another at the end of the Twentymile Loop Trail, a pleasant 7.6 mile lollypop hike along these three trails won’t even wet your boot soles.
Not everyone places a premium on staying dry. Wolf Ridge is a horse trail, and wide fords accompany each of the foot logs. On a hot summer day with appropriate footwear or just bare tootsies, hikers have a relatively easy and refreshing alternative if desired.
The somewhat rocky and rutted beginning of Wolf Ridge smooths after the second stream crossing. It must have been an old road too, though neither grade nor surface compares with the silky, graveled ease of Twentymile Trail.
Technically, there are five and half bridged crossings in this lower 1.1 mile stretch of Wolf Ridge. At the final crossing, a sliver of Moore’s Spring splits from the main stream bed to gouge its own path. Across the main bridge, the trail doglegs right to a short second footlog over this narrow channel.
Twentymile Loop Trail junction is not far beyond the final crossing. From here Wolf Ridge continues a moderate grade to Campsite #95 on Dalton Branch, then begins a steady 3.5 mile climb to Parson Bald and Sheep Pen Gap off Gregory Bald. Twentymile Loop traces a gentle arc over the tail end of Long Hungry Ridge to a junction with Twentymile Trail in 2.5 miles. From there, it is 3.1 miles down Twentymile Trail to the trailhead parking.
Very few plants are in flower along lower Wolf Ridge in early August. On Twentymile Trail, however, I see Three-lobed or Thin-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba), Flowering Spurge, fading Yellow Leafcup (Smallanthus uedivalis), Starry Campion (Silene stellata), Summer Bluets, and several ferns including Southern Lady Fern, Broad Beech Fern, and Maidenhair Fern. Bees are working the flowers, and a cluster of Spring Azures puddle on the side of the trail.