I’m always in search of new trails to share with others via review or guided hike, and this one definitely makes the list for both. Varnedoe Trail is nestled inside Blevin’s Gap, and you must hike along another trail to reach it. I find trails like this especially peaceful since they can only be reached by one’s own steam. Any trail that is quickly accessible by vehicle has the potential to be littered by road trash and individuals who don’t value these natural areas as highly, not to mention noise pollution from passing traffic. Varnedoe isn’t so remote it automatically qualifies for a challenging hike, but you’ll certainly feel immersed in the forest’s beauty before you reach the trail.
Varnedoe can be accessed via Sugar Tree Trail or the Bill and Marion Certain Trail, and utilizing these (and potentially other trails) makes for a great loop hike. The nearest trailhead parking is found at Blevin’s Gap off Cecil Ashburn, and following the recent construction hikers should always find ample parking available. Following an afternoon hike you can also soak in sunset before leaving the trailhead. Most of the trail is level walking with the normal roots and rocks for obstacles along the way, but near the southern terminus the trail turns east for a steep climb to the ridgeline above. Cell service is usually good, since at the top of the climb you’ll find a large Verizon tower.
This is a trail I never tire of walking. It offers a few “destinations” where I can turn back if I’m looking for a shorter hike, and its connection with other trails makes it a great path to extend your hiking day. The elevation change near the southern end of the trail makes this perfect for my training hikes as well. Plus, it provides wonderful afternoon views, and you can even catch a glimpse of the Tennessee River depending on leaf coverage. It’s full of cedars, chestnut oaks, and rock outcroppings, which offers nice variety and many spots to stop and rest on a trailside boulder.
I’m left wanting to hike it again soon, and feeling nostalgic for a walk I’ve done as recently as last week
My experience with this trail has unfolded over the past few years, and across seasons. Each time my boots (now trail runners) tread this path I’m satisfied. I suppose that is what an ideal trail means to me, and while I try to erase the power lines and cell towers from my mind, I know they help provide the grand scale views I enjoy as well. Regardless, I’m left wanting to hike it again soon, and feeling nostalgic for a walk I’ve done as recently as last week even while I type today. For me it is a trail that I’m routinely drawn to explore, and for that reason it will definitely be on a list of trails I hope to lead others along soon!
What to know?
- Be prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, water, snacks and other essentials
- Tell someone your plan, and hike with a buddy
- Know your limits, and those of your children and pets
- Follow all Land Trust rules, such as keeping your pet on a leash
- For more tips on preparing for a hike read Planning Your First Hike
- Visit https://www.landtrustnal.org/properties/blevins-gap-preserve/ to plan your trip
- Consider a donation and/or membership to the Land Trust of North Alabama to support local conservation and trail projects https://www.landtrustnal.org/member/
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