Sunday, February 20, 2011

Youngs Ridge Trail to Kitsuma Peak 2/19/2011

With the forecast of spring like weather we headed out to the Old Fort picnic area to hike the Youngs Ridge trail.  Since the picnic area is closed for the winter we parked outside the gate and walked up the short entrance road.  There is room for several cars to park without blocking the gate.  We listened to the rooster crow and observed the horses at the farm across Mill Creek from the parking lot area.  The trail head is to the left of the restrooms at the back of the picnic area.  We were feeling the cold damp air and wishing we had dressed warmer but in about 30 minutes with the sun shining on the hill we were glad we didn't.

The trail follows a small stream for a short distance before climbing the first hill.  We listened to a crow call and a woodpecker drumming in this area.  Soon we began to gain elevation gently but continuously with several switchbacks in this first mile.  There was the sound of traffic and then around the corner the trail leveled off and we had a view of  I-40 to our left.  Over the next couple of miles the trail is mostly straight and continues to gain elevation but more slowly with a couple of short downhill sections.  I-40 moves away behind a hill and returns closer a couple of times.  In summer when the leaves are on the trees I suspect I-40 would be much less noticeable.

 At times as you walk this narrow ridge you can see I-40 on the left and the Point Lookout Trail on the right.  There are frequent panoramic mountain views along the trail.  The ridge continued until we were about 2 1/2 miles into the hike.  At this point we stopped and found the geocache Crest of the Ridge.  It was quickly found, the log signed, and the container re hidden.  (If you are unfamiliar with geocaching check out for more information.)  From this point the trail drops into a saddle before the final climb to Kitsuma Peak.  The drop into the saddle was shorter then we expected as we looked across to the peak from the end of the ridge.

The final climb to Kitsuma peak took us up a couple of switchbacks.  We stepped to the side of the trail to allow a group of about ten runners and a small group of hikers to pass in this area.  Up until this time we had only passed one mountain biker.  By the end of the hike we had seen two more mountain bikers and two more groups of hikers. This is a popular trail but is not overly busy,  is well maintained, and mostly litter free. There are very few rocks in the trail and no obstacles such as fallen trees.  The steepest part of the hike was about a hundred foot section after the switchbacks and just before the peak.   

 As we approached the peak Mitch spotted a large rock to the right down the side of the hill.  It looked like a good viewpoint but rough to reach.  When I checked the gps I saw that the coordinates for the geocache Cache of Kitsuma Peak were down a short side trail to the rocks.  We went down, enjoyed the views, and found the first part of the cache but decided the wind was too cool to sit here for our picnic.  We returned to the peak which  is a cleared level area where we had our picnic lunch and relaxed.  It is circled by trees which acted as a wind break but there were good views between them. 

After lunch we found the final for the Cache of Kitsuma Peak and headed back the way we came.  About halfway we were surprised to see a couple of butterflies up here on the ridge.  What are they doing here in the middle of winter when there are no flowers blooming?  They would not land long enough for me to get a picture but they were medium size and black with bright yellow around  their wingtips.  They did not look like swallowtails and I did not find a picture like them on the Internet.  Does anyone have any idea what they were?  As we came down off the last set of switchbacks we heard the crow calling again and knew we were close.

We made a last stop to find the cache Right behind You just before reentering the picnic area.  We had hiked 7 miles with an elevation gain of about 1450 feet.  This was a longer hike then we have been doing but wasn't too strenuous.  The marker at the beginning of the trail rates it most difficult  but if you are looking for a nice woods walk with good views you would only have to hike a mile or so each way to have a good experience.


  1. We're going to Black Mountain Memorial weekend. How far is Kitsuma Park from the heart of Black Mountain? Is it easy hiking? Moderate? Challenging?

    1. We hiked to the peak from the east end of the ridge. The trail continues on to the Black Mountain end of the ridge but we didn't hike it. The hike we did was seven miles round trip. The sign at the trail head rates the trail strenuous but it is not technically difficult. There is quite a bit of elevation gain. If you want a different type of hike you might want to look into the headwaters of the Catawba river trail. It is a waterfall hike starting from Old Fort on the south side of I40.

  2. Nice blog! I think it may be a Mourning Cloak Butterfly. They're known to fly during winter thaws.