September 3, 2016
Ramona and I headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) on a wonderfully sunny Saturday morning. The drive from Balsam Gap was full of sunshine, while the clouds below us created a sea of white on the valley floors.
At mile 417, we parked at the Looking Glass Overlook. From the map (pictured below) we started on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) and headed northwest. After ¼ mile, we saw a trail heading down to the river and to the north. I assumed this was the Bridges Camp Trail (trail #607). It was only a short hike, but steep. Ramona quickly reminded me that I said this would be an easy hike.
We came back up and headed further on the MST. Eventually we came parallel to the BRP. There was a small trail leading to a small grass parking area. We ventured up and saw this was likely the starting point for Bridges Camp. The parking area is just a small walk from the Looking Glass parking area. When we walked back, we saw a sign for Bridges. The map indicates there is no blaze, but the trail is blazed yellow.
The trail itself is rated as moderate, but it is not overly difficult. After ¼ mile, we descended to the East Fork Pigeon River. A young couple was packing up their tent and we talked for a little. They told me that this was the junction for the East Fork Trail, Grassy Cove Trail and Bridges Camp Trail. I explored a little and thought this wasn’t correct. Much to the chagrin of Ramona, I wanted to follow the trail further north. We headed north (to the right), coinciding with the river for a ½ mile. Other than slippery rocks and roots, it is not difficult. I knew we were on the right path when I saw the Shining Rock Wilderness sign.
The end of the trail is notable for being the confluence of the Greasy Cove Prong and East Fork River. It is very beautiful and would make for great camping or trout fishing.
By the time we walked back on Bridges to the parking lot, the throngs of Labor Day weekend hikers filled the BRP. It was nice to get out so early in the morning.
Total mileage is 2 miles (plus some getting lost).