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.

Yellow Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Starting our climb on the Yellow Trail
Yellow Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
On the Yellow Trail
Old Cabin, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
A crumbling cabin beside the trail
Yellow Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Continuing on the Yellow Trail
A star burst of fading leaves
Yellow Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
A little more of the Yellow Trail
Small stream, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
The small stream at the junction of the Yellow and Blue Trails
Blue Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
On the Blue Trail
Old stone foundation, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Foundation stones of an old home beside the trail

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. 🙄

Blue Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Continuing on the Blue Trail
Bridge at junction of Red and Blue Trails, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Where the Blue Trail meets the Red Trail at the top of the loop
Red Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Returning on the Red Trail
Fall color on the forest floor
On the Kelly Hill Road section of the Red Trail, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
On the Kelly Hill Road section of the Red Trail
On the Blue Trail below its junction with the Yellow Trail
Small stream, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
The small stream that drains the Preserve
Small stream, Florence Nature Preserve, North Carolina
Another view of the small stream

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. 🤔😁

Our loop around the Florence Nature Preserve
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