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New Idea

Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine - New Idea: Proposal for the New River National Park

The first step toward the park, according to Irwin, is forming a broad coalition of organizations and citizens to ensure the national park proposal has legs.

“We’re just a little nonprofit,” Irwin says. “We need bigger groups to get involved. We’re in the process of forming a Friends of the New River National Park organization. We’ve done the research. We know it took 16 years to get the Smokies turned into a park. We’re looking at this as a long-term project.”

Worth the Trip

National park status or not, the North Cumberland plateau is worth exploring. Currently, the best way to dig into the plateau is to hike the 27-mile section of the Cumberland Trail that’s open for business. Here’s your guide to this perfect weekend backpacking trip.

Access There are only two long-term parking options for this section of the C.T. One at Cove Lake State Park, another on Norma Road where the trail crosses the road.

The Hike “This is more of a wilderness, ‘get away from people’ kind of hike,” says Tony Hook of the Cumberland Trail Conference. So expect solitude. Start at Cove Lake and hike south, with a shuttle vehicle waiting at Norma Road. The first climb is the toughest, with 2,000 feet of gain in five miles to reach Cross Mountain, the high point on the trail. You’re moving in and out of creek gorges as you hike south, which are packed with seasonal waterfalls (some of the waterfalls still lack names), popping out occasionally on mountaintops with expansive views.

Camping Dispersed, Leave No Trace camping is allowed off the trail. There are also two designated backcountry campsites, one at mile seven, and another at mile 22. HIGHLIGHTS

Anderson Mountain and Lawson Mountain are former mountaintop removal sites that have become grasslands. What you’ll find now are open balds with 360-degree views.

Adkins Branch Falls is a 20-foot drop and pool falls you’ll pass early in your hike. Duncan Falls comes later and is a bit more impressive, as it drops 20 feet over a cliff.

Montgomery Fork is a broad, flat meadow where the elk were originally released. You can still find the large animals here, particularly in the early morning and evenings. Go in the fall, and you could experience the elk rut mating ritual.

Run It In a Day

Want to run the C.T. instead? Sign up for the Cumberland Trail 50K, which covers the New River Segment of the C.T. as an out and back. The race starts at Cove Lake State Park, goes nine miles up the C.T., then veers onto ATV trails, before coming back down to the park. Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine - New Idea: Proposal for the New River National Park

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