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

Lost Cove

5,954 acres NCMT; 5,701 acres PWA; 5,954 acres IRA/WSA

Recommendation: Wilderness Compatible designation within a Grandfather National Recreation Area

Naturalness: Forest in the Lost Cove Area consists mostly of recovering mature forest in good ecological condition, and there are 1,098 acres of existing old growth in the area.

The Upper Wilson Creek, Lost Cove, Harper Creek, Sugar Knob complex of areas are clustered to the northeast of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and to the south-east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Each is separated from its neighbor only by an unpaved forest road. The four areas share natural features and values and for conservation purposes should be considered as a single, essentially unbroken wild area. The areas compose a unique natural feature dominating the ridges and valleys that fall from lands along the Blue Ridge Parkway along the side ridges to Wilson Creek

Opportunities for Solitude: The area is isolated by side ridges and deep valleys stretching from the Blue ridge Parkway to Wilson Creek. This area has both exceptional opportunities for solitude and exceptional opportunities for primitive recreation. The greatest opportunities for recreation are found lower in the watershed along the creeks with waterfalls and swimming holes, and at Big Lost Cove Cliffs. Inexhaustible solitude can be found within the upper portions of the watershed.

Opportunities for Recreation: There are trails that access much of the area and, also served by a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Big Lost Cove Cliffs rewards hikers to Beacon Heights with stunning views. The trackless upper part of the watershed, containing Sassafras Creek and Breakneck Ridge, offers some of the Pisgah’s best bushwhacking. Rock climbing is an important recreational activity here; the Big Lost Cove Cliffs has a climbing ethic that is compatible with wilderness designation.

Currently, some trails in Lost Cove are used illegally by mountain bikes, which is evidence of unmet demand for mountain bike access in the Grandfather District. Meeting this demand should be a major focus of a Grandfather NRA.

Ecological and other values: Geologically, Lost Cove is within the Grandfather Mountain Window, an erosion feature that exposes ancient rocks where the once- overlying Blue Ridge Thrust Sheet has eroded away. Erosion has been at work here for over 300 million years. Big Lost Cove Cliffs rewards hikers to Beacon Heights with stunning views. The area is a black bear sanctuary. Peregrine falcons nest in the Big Lost Cove Cliffs. 1,098 acres of old growth are found in the area. Opportunities to increase the ecological representation of ecological types that are currently under-represented in the Wilderness Preservation system include a variety of ecological types especially Appalachian Cove Hardwood, Appalachian Hemlock-Hardwood; Appalachian Oak, Appalachian Oak –xeric; Appalachian Montane Oak, and Small Stream and Riparian.

Three Significant Natural Heritage Areas are found within Lost Cove:

Lost Cove Cliffs (NCNHP proposed for new priority SIA)Sassafras Creek ForestsWilson Creek Slopes/Lost Cove Creek/Thorps Creek

Manageability: Lost Cove lies south of the adjacent Upper Wilson Creek area and its northwest boundary also reaches to the Blue Ridge Parkway along its Grandfather Mountain section. The 1994 Forest Plan recommends it for wilderness designation, reflecting its unquestionable wilderness character. The Upper Wilson Creek, Lost Cove, Harper Creek, Sugar Knob complex of areas are clustered to the northeast of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and to the south-east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are working with a broad constituency with the goal of developing and proposing an integrated wilderness and backcountry recreation strategy for the proposed Grandfather NRA.

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