For a really local hike, its great! The Holmes Run part is very average. Paved bike path, views of the stream but somewhat dirty. Passing under 395 is a little creepy as some folks were hanging around the long underpass during the day when i went. Once you hit the Dora Kelly Nature Preserve, it is decidedly moderate! If you stay on the hiking trail there is quite a bit of hill climbing and some switchbacks. The trail pops out of the forest and then joins back up with the bike trail that climbs even more. It's quite lovely. Made the slightly icky Holmes run section very worth it!
I've heard from a few friends that this is a good hike but can get hot out there in the valley. They are 100 correct. Make sure to bring plenty of water. I actually finished my 64oz bladder just before the finish of the hike. I rate this a 4 as the creek scenery and the trail is awesome. It is a hard hike, not because it is steep, because it is strenuous on the feet and ankles. I am not a fan of hiking traffic or populated places, this place was filled with others that wanted to enjoy the outdoors as much as I did, for that I would skip the weekend hikes up there. Some hikers need to learn trail etiquette and not cause trail jams. There were plenty of others out there overnight backpacking and panning for gold. Lots of activity on Saturday which included a cool session of bungee jumpers at the bridge. I made my way a little further past the bridge to get some solidity from the crowds before I had to start my hike back.
Gorgeous scenery and nicely maintained trail. There are different paths you can walk on; one does go all the way around the lake but there are other paths that are closer to the water. It's also really nice to walk along the shore. Early in the morning it is very peaceful and not crowded at all.
I had the opportunity to do this trail on Saturday it was a epic hike need to bring plenty of water unless you bring a water filter and you can use the water from the stream to drink. Part of the hike is open and the sun hits hard; didn't make it to the bridge due to the heat but I will try it again in a couple of weeks. By far the best hike yet..
The Castle Gorge Trail/Loop was excellent!:)…10.8 miles……..I parked at the Gorge and went counter-clockwise, going up the steep accent first while my legs where fresh and that’s the best way to do it as most of the second half of the trail was going down. I took my time and stopped to eat and enjoy, it took me 9H15M, very nice and beautiful…….I will return and do it again and take even longer to enjoy the endless streams and water-falls. I did see bear poop, so beware and keep your eyes open.
So rainy that day but still a very cool hike. Some people mentioned that this trail wasn't marked well but it was for us. It did look like someone had come through with a gator and cleared a lot of it. The last bit to the lakes is a little more tech and not marked as well. But not terrible. Def take bear spray. Once we got to the lake we heard a pretty intense animal "voice". I assume it was a bear because I don't know what else would have made that noise. Either way it was intimidating.
*Facilities at the Elkmont Campgrounds before you reach the parking area*
This trail has it's challenges, but the first half is relatively easy going. Once you reach past the Goshen Prong junction, is when the creek hops will get VERY challenging, and when water is much higher, can be dangerous/treacherous. Cross these creeks, if going to campsite 30, with extreme care!!
The water levels have been very low, due to the fact we've not had much rain...so they were more just boulder/rock hops, than wading pools. But when rains have fallen, and the levels are high, be prepared to get wet.
Also...as of the date that this review was written, there is a VERY large yellow jackets nest, just to the upper right of the camp/fire pit, just off the base of the tree. There were TONS of them....we stayed away to take our break, and we were left alone/not stung. Just be cautious before running around the site, looking for a place to camp, or relax.
The photos I will post will show the levels of the water, at the time of this review.
Other than these few points, the trail was very easy to navigate and hike. Steady, gentle incline, not very strenuous at all. Campsite 24 and 30 look to be very nice spots to lay your head, if you are making a several day hiking trip, or just an overnighter.
A relatively gentle trail to Lake Mary. We entered on the Brighton side. Once you reach the lake there are a number of options if you choose to proceed; we went up towards Millicent Peak which was quite a climb and a lot of serious bouldering. Unfortunately couldn't make it to the top on account of the snow.
I've done this trail many times. It's a challenging hike though the hot springs often lures people who are not experienced hikers. This trail is almost constantly climbing. On more than one occasion I've witnessed people break down emotionally from shear exhaustion on this trail. Be prepared and you won't have a problem. Clothing optional in the hot spring :)