The Florence Nature Preserve is a 600 acre (243 ha) tract of land that was donated to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy by a retired Atlanta doctor. It features a network of relatively moderate trails past creeks and cascades, scenic rock outcrops, foundations of an old hardscrabble home, and through some old growth forest. All this was sufficiently appealing to convince two other family members to join us here for our third hike during our 2022 family reunion.
The parking area on Highway 74A southeast of Asheville for the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead is easy to find but small. Fortunately we arrived early enough to secure a parking spot. The day was chilly but clear and sunny – near perfect hiking weather. 😎😊 From the trailhead, we followed the Yellow Trail to the Blue Trail, then went counter-clockwise on the Blue and Red Trails back to the Yellow Trail and the trailhead.
After passing the home foundations, we followed the Orange Trail out to Tom & Genna Rock for a view of … leaves. We later skipped a hike out to Rattlesnake Knob because we doubted any views from there too. Leafless winter is apparently the best time for views in the Preserve. 🙄
Our loop came to 5.0 miles (8.0 km) with about 800 feet (244 m) of gain. On our return, we found the parking lot full and people circling or waiting to claim a spot. This was not too surprising. This was a Saturday and Asheville gets 10+ million visitors per year, with Fall colors being a prime attraction at this time of year. After extricating ourselves from the parking lot, we headed for delicious pizza 🍕 and refreshments 🍺 at Piazza along Highway 74A just outside Asheville. After that, we spent the remainder of the day in idle dissipation. 🤔😁