North of the popular Old Loggers Path is a network of trails that hikers rarely visit. One trail is the Hawkeye Trail, a loop of about 7 miles. The Hawkeye Trail is primarily a cross country ski trail, but is also nice for hiking. My goal was to do a hike that combined the Hawkeye Trail, off trail hiking, old grades, North Branch Rock Run, and a scenic gorge. This loop is about 6-7 miles in length.
I began at the parking area for the Hawkeye Trail along Ellenton Mountain Road and followed this trail counterclockwise, or to the right. The trail was level and rolling as it explored hardwood forests. It followed an old grade or forest road. When I reached the first stream crossing, I left the Hawkeye Trail to begin the off trail section of the hike. I followed the creek downstream as it tumbled over rocks and boulders. I reached an obvious grade, which I crossed. I continued off trail along the creek. Here, a gorge began to develop with more cascades. Further downstream another creek joined from the left into a scenic gorge. Ledges, cliffs, and large hemlocks adorned the gorge where there were several slides and small falls. The gorge was only about 75-100 feet deep, but was quite steep. The tallest cascade was no more than 10-15 feet. Mist hung in the gorge. As I descended the gorge, there were rhododendrons, a rare sight in this area. There were also a lot of flagstone rock outcrops. As a result, I called it Flagstone Gorge.
At the bottom, the gorge opened up and I soon reached the North Branch Rock Run, which I followed downstream. This was a beautiful wilderness stream lined with reddish ledges and cliffs. It looked like a prime trout stream. Old grades accompanied the creek in places, but I still had to cross several times. The creek had rapids and deep pools along ledges. Large boulders dotted the stream bed as large hemlocks grew overhead. I then reached a long ledge against which the creek flowed; this red ledge had many springs flowing out of it. Some old ruins of stone were nearby, likely from the logging era. I really enjoyed my hike along the North Branch; the scenery and isolation made this a special place. There were many superb potential camping spots along the creek.
I soon reached the Chasms of Rock Run, where the North Branch meets Rock Run itself. What a glorious place with bedrock grottos, deep pools, rapids, slides, and large boulders. Hemlock, birch, and maple grew overhead. The roar of the water filled the gorge. At the confluence was an epic campsite where I took a break and got a bite to eat. I promised myself that I would camp there someday.
I then headed uphill, off trail. As I neared the top, I reached an unblazed grade, where I turned right. The grade headed east; I avoided any grade that went downhill. The grade went through hardwood forests. I soon reached the red blazed Hawkeye Trail; where I turned left. The route to the right is more scenic, but a little longer (purple on the map above). Due to time, I took the route to the left. The trail is well blazed and follows old grades through hardwoods, along logging cuts, and a grove of spruce. I crossed small streams and soon reached Ellenton Mountain Road. The trail parallels the road, but I had trouble finding it, so I just walked the road. I soon returned to my car.
If you are looking for a challenge and seeing places few others have visited, I recommend this hike. Flagstone Gorge was more scenic than I was expecting, North Branch Rock Run is sublime, and the Chasms of Rock Run are incredible. I also suggest taking the purple route on the map as it is a more scenic return route, although I did not follow it on this hike.
Parking is located at 41.564652, -76.830230.