Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail In North Carolina

Here is everything you need to know about the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Carolina
  • Length: 2 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: US Forest Service
  • Permit Required?: No.
  • Website:

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail, located in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, holds significant historical value. The trail is named after Joyce Kilmer, an American poet and soldier who fought in World War I. Kilmer was known for his famous poem “Trees,” which celebrated the beauty and importance of nature. Tragically, he lost his life in the war at the young age of 31.

In 1936, the United States Forest Service established the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to honor Kilmer’s memory and his love for nature. This forest, encompassing over 3,800 acres, is home to one of the largest remaining tracts of old-growth forest in the eastern United States. The Memorial Loop Trail was created within this forest to provide visitors with an opportunity to experience the untouched beauty of the ancient trees that Kilmer so passionately wrote about.

The trail itself is approximately 2 miles long and winds through a lush forest filled with towering trees, including massive tulip poplars, oaks, and hemlocks. These trees, some of which are estimated to be over 400 years old, create a serene and awe-inspiring atmosphere. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail has become a popular destination for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and those seeking a peaceful retreat into the past, where they can witness the same natural wonders that inspired Kilmer’s poetry.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Visitor Center: This is the starting point of the loop trail and provides information about the area and trail conditions.

2. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Parking Area: Located near the visitor center, this parking area is the main access point for the loop trail.

3. Little Santeetlah Creek Trailhead: This trailhead is located along the loop trail and provides access to the Little Santeetlah Creek Trail, which is a popular side trail.

4. Hangover Lead Trailhead: This trailhead is located along the loop trail and provides access to the Hangover Lead Trail, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

5. Naked Ground Trailhead: This trailhead is located along the loop trail and provides access to the Naked Ground Trail, which leads to a scenic overlook.

6. Stratton Bald Trailhead: This trailhead is located along the loop trail and provides access to the Stratton Bald Trail, which leads to the summit of Stratton Bald.

7. Big Fat Gap Trailhead: This trailhead is located along the loop trail and provides access to the Big Fat Gap Trail, which offers a more challenging hiking experience.

8. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Picnic Area: Located near the loop trail, this picnic area is a great spot to take a break and enjoy a meal amidst the beautiful surroundings.

Note: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is a 2.2-mile loop trail that can be accessed from various points along the loop. The trail is well-marked, and signage is available at each access point.

Transportation Available

1. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail Parking Lot – Convenient parking area for trail visitors.
2. Yellow Cab – Local taxi service for transportation needs.
3. Uber – Ride-hailing service available in the area.
4. Lyft – Another ride-hailing service option for transportation.
5. Graham County Transit – Public transportation service serving the region.
6. Smoky Mountain Transit – Regional transit service connecting various destinations.
7. Appalachian Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service specifically for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
8. Rental Car Agencies – Various rental car companies offering transportation options.
9. Trailhead Shuttle Service – Shuttle service catering to trail visitors.
10. Private Transportation Companies – Local companies providing transportation services in the area.


The amenities available at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at the trailhead.

2. Parking: There is a parking lot available for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: There are designated camping sites available for overnight stays. However, it is recommended to check with the local authorities or park management for any permits or reservations required.

4. Picnic Areas: There are picnic areas with tables and benches where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack amidst the natural surroundings.

5. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there are informative signs that provide details about the flora, fauna, and history of the area.

6. Benches: There are benches placed at various points along the trail, providing resting spots for hikers.

7. Trash Receptacles: There are trash cans available for proper disposal of waste.

8. Information Center: There may be an information center or visitor center nearby where visitors can gather more information about the trail, its history, and any current events or programs.

It is always recommended to check with the local park authorities or visitor centers for the most up-to-date information on amenities and facilities available at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Santeetlah Campground – Campground offering tent and RV sites near the trailhead.
2. Tapoco Lodge – Historic lodge with rustic rooms and a restaurant serving American cuisine.
3. Fontana Village Resort – Resort with various lodging options, dining, and access to amenities like a marina and spa.
4. Cheoah Point Campground – Scenic campground with tent and RV sites near the trail, offering lake views.
5. The Hub – Bike shop and café serving sandwiches, salads, and coffee.
6. Fontana Dam Visitor Center – Visitor center providing information, restrooms, and exhibits near the trail.
7. Robbinsville Medical Center – Local hospital providing emergency medical services.
8. Graham County Sheriff’s Office – Law enforcement agency offering emergency assistance.
9. Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness – Wilderness area adjacent to the trail, offering a serene natural environment.
10. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest – Old-growth forest with hiking trails and picnic areas, honoring the poet Joyce Kilmer.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail Difficulty Notes

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail presents a moderate difficulty level, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers. The 2-mile loop trail winds through the lush forests of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, showcasing towering old-growth trees and serene natural beauty. While the trail is relatively flat and well-maintained, there are some sections with uneven terrain and tree roots, requiring careful footing. Additionally, the trail includes a few gentle inclines and descents, adding a moderate level of challenge. Overall, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail offers a rewarding hiking experience that can be enjoyed by both beginners and experienced hikers alike.

Features And Attractions

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is located in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness area in North Carolina. Along this trail, you can find several scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable points of interest along the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail:

1. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: The trail itself is named after the famous poet Joyce Kilmer, and the loop trail takes you through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. This forest is known for its old-growth trees, including massive poplars and hemlocks.

2. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Plaque: Near the beginning of the trail, you’ll find a plaque dedicated to Joyce Kilmer, which provides some information about the poet and the significance of the forest.

3. Tall Trees: As you hike along the trail, you’ll encounter numerous tall trees, including some of the largest trees in the eastern United States. These towering trees create a majestic and awe-inspiring atmosphere.

4. Slickrock Creek: The trail follows the Slickrock Creek for a portion of the loop, offering beautiful views of the creek and its cascades. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the soothing sounds of the water.

5. Poplar Cove: This area of the trail is known for its abundance of poplar trees, which provide a stunning display of fall colors during autumn.

6. Natural Landscapes: Throughout the trail, you’ll be surrounded by the natural beauty of the wilderness area. From lush greenery to wildflowers, the landscapes along the trail are diverse and captivating.

7. Historical Significance: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is part of the larger Slickrock Wilderness, which has a rich history. This area was once home to Cherokee Native Americans and later became a logging site. The trail itself showcases remnants of the logging era, including old railroad grades and sawmill sites.

8. Wildlife: Keep an eye out for various wildlife species that call this area home. You may spot deer, black bears, wild turkeys, and a variety of bird species.

These are just a few of the highlights along the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail. The trail offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, appreciate the historical significance, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Camping is not permitted along the trail or in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
3. Hunting or trapping is strictly prohibited within the memorial forest.
4. The trail is open year-round, but during winter months, it may be subject to closures or restrictions due to inclement weather or hazardous conditions.
5. Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
6. Visitors are encouraged to stay on designated trails and not to disturb or remove any plants, animals, or natural features.
7. Open fires are not permitted along the trail or within the memorial forest.
8. Visitors are responsible for carrying out their trash and leaving no trace behind.
9. Overnight camping or lodging is not available within the memorial forest.
10. Visitors are advised to bring insect repellent, as mosquitoes and ticks can be present in the area.
11. It is recommended to check for any trail updates or closures before visiting, as conditions may change.

Seasonal Information

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail, located in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, is a stunning destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In the spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, blooming rhododendrons, and lush greenery. The weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and occasional rainfall, making it an ideal time to explore the trail and witness the beauty of nature awakening.

During the fall, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail transforms into a breathtaking display of autumn colors. The surrounding forest is adorned with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold, creating a picturesque landscape. The cool, crisp air and the absence of bugs make it a perfect time for hiking and enjoying the peacefulness of the trail.

It is important to note that the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is closed during the winter season. The trail is located in a remote area, and the harsh weather conditions, including heavy snowfall and icy paths, make it unsafe for visitors. The closure typically begins in late November and lasts until early spring. It is advisable to check with the local authorities or the Nantahala National Forest website for the exact dates of closure before planning a visit.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the trail is adorned with blooming flowers and vibrant autumn colors. However, it is essential to be aware of the seasonal closure during winter for safety reasons. Whether you choose to witness the awakening of nature in spring or immerse yourself in the stunning fall foliage, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail promises a memorable and awe-inspiring experience.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail offers wheelchair accessibility, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to explore the trail and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
2. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways, ensuring a smooth and accessible surface for wheelchair users and individuals with mobility aids.
3. Accessible Parking: The trail provides accessible parking spaces near the trailhead, allowing individuals with disabilities to easily access the trail.
4. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are available near the trailhead, ensuring convenience for individuals with disabilities.
5. Handrails: The trail is equipped with handrails in certain areas, providing additional support and stability for individuals with mobility limitations.
6. Benches and Rest Areas: Benches and rest areas are strategically placed along the trail, offering individuals with disabilities a place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
7. Signage: The trail features clear and visible signage, including accessible symbols, to guide individuals with disabilities and ensure they can navigate the trail easily.
8. Assistance Animals: Service animals are permitted on the trail, allowing individuals with disabilities to have the necessary support during their visit.
9. Accessible Information: The trail provides accessible information, such as braille or large print materials, to ensure individuals with visual impairments can access relevant information about the trail.
10. Accessibility Guidelines: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail adheres to ADA accessibility guidelines, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can fully enjoy the trail’s offerings.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is a moderate 2-mile loop trail suitable for most hikers.
2. Weather Conditions: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the trail is located in a remote area with limited access to emergency services.
3. Trail Markings: The trail is well-marked with blazes and signs, making navigation relatively easy.
4. Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction to navigate the sometimes rocky and uneven terrain.
5. Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects.
6. Wildlife Awareness: Be aware of the potential presence of black bears and other wildlife; make noise to alert them of your presence and carry bear spray as a precaution.
7. Water Sources: Carry enough water for the duration of your hike, as there are no reliable water sources along the trail.
8. Trail Etiquette: Practice Leave No Trace principles, stay on the designated trail, and respect the natural environment.
9. Cell Phone Reception: Expect limited or no cell phone reception in the area, so plan accordingly for emergencies.
10. Hiking in Groups: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety and assistance if needed.
11. First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials such as bandages, antiseptic, and any necessary personal medications.
12. Time Management: Start your hike early to allow enough time to complete the loop before darkness falls.
13. Emergency Contacts: Inform someone of your hiking plans, including expected return time and emergency contact information.
14. Trail Conditions: Check for any trail closures or advisories before heading out, as conditions may change due to weather or maintenance work.
15. Physical Fitness: Ensure you are in good physical condition before attempting the trail, as it involves some elevation changes and moderate exertion.

Conservation Notes

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail, located in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness of North Carolina, holds a conservation status that is of utmost importance. The trail is situated within a designated wilderness area, which means it is protected by federal law to preserve its natural state and prevent any human-made alterations. This conservation status ensures that the trail remains unspoiled and allows visitors to experience the untouched beauty of the surrounding forest.

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, some of which are rare and endangered. The conservation status of the trail ensures the protection of these species and their habitats. Efforts are made to minimize human impact on the ecosystem, such as restricting camping and fires to designated areas, and encouraging visitors to stay on the marked trail to avoid disturbing sensitive vegetation.

Conservation organizations and park authorities work together to monitor and manage the trail’s conservation status. Regular assessments are conducted to evaluate the health of the ecosystem and identify any potential threats or issues. These assessments help in implementing necessary measures to maintain the trail’s conservation status and ensure its long-term sustainability.

Overall, the conservation status of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail is of great significance, as it safeguards the natural environment, protects endangered species, and allows visitors to appreciate the unspoiled beauty of this wilderness area.

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