Join HRI for a hike through a hemlock conservation area established by the USDA Forest Service in Pisgah National Forest on the South Toe River. The trail is nestled at the base of Mount Mitchell and parallels the South Toe River for most of its length. The hike will begin and end at the Black Mountain Campground, which features a number of large hemlocks that have been regularly treated. The hemlocks in this campground add to the riverside character of the campsites as well as providing shade for campsites during the summer. In the days before our hike, HRI will be working to re-treat these trees  in and around the campground, giving us the opportunity to discuss HRI’s work around western North Carolina as well as hemlock conservation tools used by forest managers.

A volunteer and HRI forest technician treating hemlocks at Black Mountain Campground

The trail will continue out of the campground and into stands that have been heavily impacted by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). Comparing these two areas will allow us to discuss the threat that HWA poses, the importance of hemlocks, and the impacts that rapid hemlock mortality can have on a stream ecosystem.  The hike also features a hemlock impact monitoring plot, where we will stop to discuss active hemlock research and the integration of biological controls into a management plan on a local and regional level.

This hike is a great opportunity to learn about hemlock conservation in the region and see the natural and recreational value that hemlocks provide. Winter hikes also showcase the unique role that hemlocks have in the ecosystem as an evergreen that favors riparian areas. Given the recent treatment, it also makes for an ideal setting to discuss what forest managers take into account when thinking about hemlock management. We may also see some reishi mushrooms and will stop to visit Setrock Falls along the way.

The River Loop trail is a moderately difficult 6 mile hike with gentle elevation changes. We will meet in the parking lot across from the Black Mountain Campground at 10:00 am and plan to finish around 4:00 pm. To be notified of the new date email or call (828)-252-4783. Please include a contact phone number and email address when you sign up. If you would like to volunteer to help us treat the hemlocks in this area, you can find more information about what volunteering entails and how to join us here:


The Hemlock Restoration Initiative is restarting our educational programs and volunteer events. Despite the lifting of restrictions, we acknowledge the risk that COVID-19 continues to pose to members of our community. To maintain the safety of our event participants and staff, HRI is limiting the number of participants at all events and requiring that all individuals follow HRI’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. This means that sign-ups will be held on a first-come-first-served basis. Anyone not following the guidelines on the day of the event will be asked to leave. Please review the COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure that you are comfortable following these guidelines. Please also let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend an event for which you are registered so that we may allow someone else to fill your spot.