You may walk to the Lover’s Leap trailhead from the Lodge. You walk through Hot Springs on Bridge Street and over the French Broad River bridge, walking on the right side of the bridge. At the end of the bridge, step over the guardrail and go down the narrow footpath. When you reach the paved road, go left (upstream), over a wooden bridge , staying along the River for a few minutes. Then the trail heads up, with multiple switchbacks and two overlook rocks with a great view of the town and valley. The trail is quite rocky and uphill, but not very long. Along the river, just before the trails go uphill, you’ll enjoy virtual carpets of Bloodroot and Spring Beauties in March and April. Up towards the top there are wild blueberry bushes which usually fruit in July or August. At the top of the trail, which is Lover’s Leap, you can loop back down the other side. Here you will walk through dense forest with low-lying rhododendrons and mountain laurel along the trail. These usually are in bloom during May and June. You will end up looking down at Silvermine Campground. Turn left and stay on the wooded trail or follow the trail to the right and down to the campground. Either way, take a left onto the gravel road and back to the river, up the trail to the Bridge, etc. About 2 miles; Time from the Lodge and back is 1 hour to 1.5 hours.
Pump Gap Trail
This trail offers diversity: you’ll walk along a fast-flowing stream and dense forest part of the time, and then have lovely vistas to breathe in! Parts of this hike are very steep–we recommend hiking boots or shoes w/good ankle support. From the Lodge, drive over the French Broad River and immediately turn left and then left again (at the stop sign), driving under the bridge. Stay on this paved road (NOC is on the left), following the bend in the road to the left. Park at the trailhead. This area is called Silvermine and there is a map posted for your use. We recommend that to hike the Pump Gap Loop Trail, start off by walking around the Forest Service gate and up the little gravel road. Continue past Silvermine Group Campground, staying on this old road along the Creek and into the woods. There will be several creek crossing and when you come to a fork in the trail, go left. The Pump Gap trail is marked w/yellow blazes on trees. This is where it becomes steep for a while. Eventually this trail joins the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) for a short while. You will come to a rather primitive almost flat campsite area on your left and at this point the AT turns right and goes back to Hot Springs. Now, you keep going straight & down the hill (following yellow blazes). When you emerge from the woods onto a grassy old Forest Service Rd, go to the right and after a few yards your trail drops back down into the woods to the left again. You’ll meander along going downhill for a while, cross a steam and then climb back up. Again, you emerge from your little trail into an intersection with the Appalachian Trail. You will want to keep going straight and down. Believe it or not, you will find yourself (after about 30 minutes) back down at Silvermine and your car! Hiking Time: about 2.5-3 hours; 5.7 miles.