Sometimes I am in the mood to go for a hike but not in the mood to get all geared up and spend an hour or two driving to a trailhead. In those times a walk on a favorite forest road is just the ticket. And I do have a group of favorite roads; all have that nature-feel, are easy to get to, are not paved, and have little to no traffic. This story is about Granite Peak Road but sometime in the future I will write about the others.
Granite Peak Road is three miles long, making for a six mile out and back walk, but most of the time I only walk part of it. The road is graveled and has very few ruts. In these times of social distancing, walking on a road side by side is a nice way to be with a friend. Granite Peak Road is wide enough for two people to walk abreast and still manage to keep six feet apart.
Each of the three miles has a different flavor; it’s almost like three different roads. The first mile winds through a dry forest and for me, the best part of this first mile is that you will definitely work up a sweat and get to breathing hard. The elevation climbs about 600 feet and if you’re ever looking for a 2-mile aerobic workout that’s outside and easy to get to, walk that first mile and back.
The second mile is through a former clear-cut. When I first started walking the road, this middle mile had very few trees and therefore had magnificent views of the back side of Weaver Bally and Monument Peak. Now the trees are starting to grow back and are just tall enough and dense enough that you only get a few glimpses of the former view. However right ahead of you as you walk down the road there are lovely views of the road’s namesake – Granite Peak.
You would think that walking through a former clear-cut would be super ugly, but not so much in this case. Besides the views of Granite Peak, there are very large and beautiful oak trees sprinkled in the landscape and they are more pronounced and noticeable than usual because they are taller than the new pines that are growing up around them. If you love birds, this is an excellent spot for you to visit to hear birdsong early in the morning.
And then there’s the flowers. Since there is so much exposure, the wildflowers have found a niche. Of note are the wild iris, several varieties of lupine (purple, yellow, and rootbeer-foam colors), pussy ears galore, shooting stars, yellow and purple violets, many, many bright pink phlox, and a generous helping of lilies. You have to go during the spring to catch the flowers though. Sometimes when I am in the mood to look at flowers but for whatever reason can’t hike, I just drive down the middle section of this road with all the windows down and my head hanging out.
This section is excruciatingly hot on a summer day; so go in the EARLY morning (you want to anyway for the bird chorus). I could also see walking this section at night with a full moon, although I haven’t done this. There would be a clear view of the sky because the trees that are tall enough now to block the view of Monument Peak, are not yet tall enough to block any of the sky.
The last mile of road is through lush forest. This is my favorite stretch. Sometimes I park at the end of the road at the Granite Peak Trail trailhead and walk down the road a mile through lush forest and then turn around and walk back. There are dogwoods blooming in the spring, the oak trees are magnificent, and it’s nice and shady.
If you are going: From Weaverville drive about 20 minutes north on Highway 3 and you will come to an unsigned left turn. It’s a mile or two or three after the turn to Stoney Ridge Trail. The turnoff is directly across from the Bushytail and Minersville campgrounds turnoff.