North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
Help Protect the Vulnerable Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests
 

Jarrett Creek

8,979 acres NCMT; 7,518 acres PWA; 7,445 acres IRA          

Recommendation: Backcountry Management Area/Special Biological Management Area

Naturalness: The Jarrett Creek area lies in the heart of a complex of wildlands that are either currently protected, such as the privately owned Montreat Wilderness and Asheville municipal watershed, and Mountain Treasure Areas within the Pisgah National Forest that are prime candidates for Wilderness designation—the Black Mountains and Mackey Mountain Potential Wilderness Areas. As recreational use on the Pisgah District has increased, Jarrett Creek has provided an outlet for users who seek greater solitude.

The beauty of Jarrett Creek places it in the top 10 of all creeks on the Pisgah/Nantahala National Forest. In the remote and steeper northeastern part of this area, the creeks are much more difficult to reach, and course down over low falls and cascades. Many of the high coves have old-growth stands of timber, bypassed because of the steep topography. In fact, the largest known tree on Pisgah National Forest, a yellow poplar 18 feet around and 122 feet tall, grows on an unnamed stream on the slopes of Laurel Knob.

This area can be viewed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which acts as its northern boundary. The Curtis Creek Road forms its eastern boundary. Pritchard Creek, Jarrett Creek, Newberry Creek, and Curtis Creek drain from the ridges below the parkway and into the rugged coves below. Part of this area was included in the first National Forest acquisition under the Weeks Act, adding historical interest and value to this tract.

Opportunities for Solitude: The rugged terrain of Jarrett Creek provides abundant opportunities for solitude that are also accessible from Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Opportunities for Primitive Recreation: Trails once crisscrossed the area. They followed gentle gradients and opened the area to full exploration. Regrettably, the Forest Service has abandoned most of them. This is an ideal place for volunteer maintenance crews to restore the old trails. The usual route into Jarrett Creek is by a trail that leads east from the Heartbreak Ridge Trail. After crossing a timber harvest road it deteriorates badly. Beyond Jarrett Creek, this now-unmaintained trail leads up a beautiful hollow to Star Gap, and from there down to Newberry Creek. Also at Star Gap, the old Iron Mountain trail could provide a hiking alternative to Heartbreak Ridge, which has become popular with mountain bikers.

The most-used trail here is the Heartbreak Ridge Trail which follows a long ridge from the Blue Ridge Parkway to a turn onto 21 switchbacks that lead down to Pritchard Creek and out to a road on Mill Creek. The steepest trail is that up Snooks Nose, which leads from the Curtis Creek Campground to the Blue Ridge Parkway and across to the fire tower on Green Knob. The Deep Gap trail leads from upper Newberry Creek through ancient forest to the Parkway. These trails, some highly used and some in need of maintenance, provide excellent connectors between the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the Curtis Creek Campground area.

Ecological and other values: Within the Jarrett Creek Mountain Treasure Area 4180 acres of existing old-growth forest is found. Other important biological resources include Carolina Hemlock Bluffs, extensive Table Mountain pine stands, and high quality cove forests. The scenic values of Laurel Mountain are spectacular, especially from the outcrops of Pilot Rock and Slate Rock.

The area includes one State Natural Heritage Area:

Newberry Creek Gorge (Note most of SNHA is in excluded within 1,000 foot buffer along road)

Manageability: Within the 8,975 acres of this area there are 7,500 Inventoried Roadless acres and 4180 acres of existing old growth forest. The entire watershed is protected from future road construction, though inappropriate road improvements to Newberry Creek Road have been made since this area was inventoried as an IRA. This road should be reclassified to be consistent with IRA status and the area placed in a Backcountry Management Area or Special Biological Management Area status.

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