January can be a dicey time of year for exploring in the mountains. The higher you get, the greater the chance for snow and ice — more a problem for driving than hiking. Good reason to stay low (between 1,500 and 2,400 feet), yet still reap the benefits of a mountainlike trip. Good reason to visit the Wilson Creek area. One thing about Wilson Creek is the number of creeks that penetrate this rugged section of the Blue Ridge escarpment below Grandfather Mountain, creeks that often present challenging crossings. Not so much the case on the Schoolhouse Ridge Loop. Though it does have multiple crossings of Thorps Creek early on, none are challenging. After that, it’s carefree mountain hiking.

More info: USDA Forest Service, Grandfather Ranger District; www.FriendsofWilsonCreek.org; “Backpacking North Carolina,” Trip No. 10.

Map: “Wilson Creek National Wild and Scenic River Trail Guide: Pisgah National Forest,” USDA Forest Service.

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: Schoolhouse Ridge Loop/Wilson Creek in a larger map


school house ridge
Location: Wilson Creek area
Nearest town: Blowing Rock
Latitude: N35 59.533
Longitude: W81 45.691
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.6 miles
Loop/one-way: Loop
Time to complete: 3-5 hours