This trail covers approximately 16 miles between the Greenbrier and Cosby sections of the park, meandering in and out of gaps and beside creeks along what once were probably wildlife trails and eventually became trails used by the folks who lived here. Much of the trail was created along paths that once connected the various settlements in this region to each other.
Since folks primarily built their homes in the lower areas of these mountains, along creeks that would sustain them and in areas where some flat lands could be found to raise crops and livestock, there's not a tremendous amount of elevation change on this hike. The topography is not difficult; only the length of the hike, if you do the entire trail, makes it challenging. You could, however, do a part of the trail in and out, or you could backpack it and spend the night at Backcountry Campsite #33 and still see plenty of historical relics to give you a feel for the lifestyle of these hearty people. The most impressive structures, in my mind anyway, are the massive stone walls, and those lie on the Cosby side of the trail.
|The Mountain Laurel were especially beautiful!|
One word of caution though if you decide to do this trail--about half way in there is a considerable amount of storm damage and at one point the debris is so thick we became concerned that we had lost the trail. Just make your way through the debris though and you will find the trail on the other side of the small creek. Once you see the small waterfall that is mentioned in the "brown book" hiker's Bible, you will feel better, or at least we did, because you will know that yes, you are indeed, still on Old Settler's Trail.
I really did enjoy this hike, but in closing I just want to say that a part of me was sad--sad for the settlers who had worked so hard to build such structures in such a remote region only to have been asked (or forced) to leave these homes behind. It's hard to think about the fact that if those folks had remained sole owners of their property, then I would not have had the ability to enjoy these mountains as much as I do. It's a difficult realization to come to. I truly want to thank them for their sacrifice.