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Asheville-area Adventure of the Week: Hike MTS to Rattlesnake Lodge

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3/29/2012 - Asheville-area Adventure of the Week: Hike MTS to Rattlesnake Lodge
by Outdoors - Asheville Citizen Times

What: Hike along Mountains-to-Sea Trail and Rattlesnake Lodge.

Where: Access the Mountains-to-Sea Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Asheville, between Mileposts 377 and 374.

Distance: Rattlesnake Lodge Trail from Ox Creek Road is about 2.4 miles out and back.

Details: If you're on the lookout for spring wildflowers, the exposed slopes of the Rattlesnake Lodge Trail is a good place to start in the hunt for early peepers such as bloodroot and trillium. But the trail, which follows the Mountains-to-Sea, blazed with white circles painted on trees and posts, is always great for an outdoors getaway.

Rattlesnake Lodge can be accessed at a couple of entry points. Start at the trailhead at Milepost 374.4 at Tanbark Ridge Tunnel for a short but steep climb to the site of the summer home of Asheville physician Chase P. Ambler and his family in the early 1900s.

All that remains at the site are some stone foundations and the outline of an in-ground pool on an estate that still remains hidden and secluded in the woods a century later. The buildings burned down in 1926. The National Park Service acquired the property in 1976.

For a longer trail that climbs more slowly over switchbacks, turn left at Bull Gap, then right onto Ox Creek Road. It takes about two hours round-trip to hike.

If you don't want to climb or walk that far, step onto the MST at Ox Creek Road and head south toward Craven Gap at Milepost 374. This was the section of trail that President Barack Obama and the first lady hiked when they vacationed in Asheville two years ago.

Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be on a 6-foot leash. Bull Gap sits at an elevation of 3,100 feet, and you climb even higher, so it is often cooler than in Asheville.

Directions: Head north from Asheville for about eight miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Bull Gap, Milepost 375.6, at the Vance Birthplace/Weaverville sign. Turn right onto Ox Creek Road, then park at the second right-hand dirt parking area to access the MTS Trail.

Information: Call the automated road and weather conditions line at 298-0398. To speak to a person, call the Parkway Visitor Center at 298-5330.

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