Prescription for summer hiking? Just add water

Hiking Harper Creek

You want to keep hiking as we surge into summer, but the heat!
Not a problem, really. You just need to make sure that relief — in the form of clear, cool water — is at hand.
Here are five hikes that throw cold water on the notion that it’s too hot to hike come summer.

1. Moore’s Wall Trail
Hanging Rock State Park
Danbury
4.2 miles
Doesn’t a icy dip feel better when you’ve earned it? And earn it you will following this this ascent of Moore’s Knob, the highest point in Hanging Rock State Park. Rather than the traditional start at the Visitor Center, head a bit farther down the park road and pick up Moore’s Wall Trail from behind the bathhouse. Stop, take in the view of the refreshing 12-acre mountain lake, your carrot for the steady climb up to 2,579-foot Moore’s Knob. Take a moment to enjoy the sweeping view: from the Virginia mountains to the north, to the Blue Ridge due west, to Winston-Salem to the southwest. Then, make a hasty descent back to the therapeutic reward of that 12-acre mountain lake.
More info here

Hanging Rock: 4.2 challenging miles, then this

2. Eagle Trail
West Point on the Eno City Park
Durham
3.6 miles (out-and-back)
From the heart of West Point on the Eno, the Eagle Trail traces the Eno River upstream for 1.8 miles. You might make it that far, but don’t count on it, not when you discover Sennett Hole less than a half mile in. Rumor has it that Sennett Hole has no bottom (which is why no one has found the pot of gold that supposedly awaits). But really, the reward here is seeking out the thermocline — and 10-degree cooler water — about 8 feet down on a 95-degree summer’s day. Another perk: lots of rock outcrop to stretch out and dry out on while you steel yourself for your next submersion.
More info here

Sennett Hole, West Point on the Eno city park

3. Harper Creek/North Harper Creek Loop
Wilson Creek
Mortimer
13.6-mile loop, 1.5 mile to the falls
On a recent GetBackpacking! trip to South Mountains State Park, a camper was disappointed by the 80-foot High Shoals Falls. Not the falls itself; rather, the absence of a big pool at the base where you could feel the water crash down on you and that was big enough for some lap swimming. Ah, we thought, what you want is Harper Creek Falls. Harper Creek Falls plunges 65 feet into one of the sweetest pools around. (Once we arrived to find a guy in swim cap, goggles and Speedos doing the breaststroke.) It’s only a mile and a half to the falls; thus, no surprise that it’s popular on a hot summer’s day. Escape the crowds by heading farther up Harper Creek, then North Harper Creek to more falls, more pools.
More info here

4. Hunt-Fish Falls Trail
Wilson Creek
Mortimer
1.6 miles (out-and-back)
Including two venues from the same area — and within just a handful of miles of each other — may seem like cheating. But when it comes to wet ’n’ wild hikes, it’s hard to beat the 49,000-acre Wilson Creek area. Wilson Creek sits in the drainage for Grandfather Mountain, gathering all the rainfall that lands on the massif’s southeast flank. That’s a lot of water, and thus, a lot of great places to get wet in the summer. Huntfish Falls is a smaller drop — about a third that of Harper Creek Falls — and the pool isn’t as big. But it’s big enough, it’s cool enough, and doggone it, it’s worth a visit, in part because it’s got one of the best apres-dip sunning slabs around.
More info here

Pool on Basin Creek

5. Basin Creek Trail
Doughton Park (Longbottom Road access)
Elkin
8 miles (out and back)
One word comes to mind when most folks think of Doughton Park: crowded. That would be the upper part of this 7,000-acre Blue Ridge Parkway escape, the part before it slips off the escarpment. Not nearly as many people know about the Longbottom Road Access, from which you pick up the Grassy Gap Fire Road trail. There’s a little over a mile of mellow hiking on Grassy Gap before you reach a primitive campground and the Basin Creek Trail. For 3.3 miles, you’ll play tag with its namesake creek, which is pocked with the occasional small pools. The trail ends at the old Caudill Cabin, where you can lunch and marvel at how a family of 13 shared this one-room cabin. An especially good water hike for someone actually interested in hiking.
More info here