Trails at Sweetwater Creek State Park
RED (HISTORY) TRAIL
1 mile one way. Blazed red. Rated easy to difficult.
The Red Trail, after half a mile, takes you to the impressive New Manchester mill ruins alongside the white-water rapids of Sweetwater Creek and is the recommended hike for first-time visitors. New Manchester was a mid-nineteenth century mill town which met its demise during the Civil War. A history guide for the Red Trail is available in the Interpretive Center. The second half mile of the Red Trail, downstream of the mill, continues to follow the rapids to the Sweetwater Falls area and is considerably more strenuous because of the very rocky terrain.
The Red Trail is the most frequently used trail in the park because it’s the shortest trail to the mill ruins and best showcases the beauty of the creek valley.
More about the Red Trail.
BLUE (NATURE OR NON-GAME WILDLIFE) TRAIL
2 miles one way. Blazed blue. Rated moderate to difficult. A steep climb down to the falls deck.
The Blue Trail intersects with the Red Trail near the overlook of the New Manchester mill ruins at the one-mile mark. This trail was specifically designed to highlight the park’s non-game wildlife and plant communities. The trail winds through several lovely stream coves and follows the ridges overlooking Sweetwater Creek. There is an amazing diversity of habitats here, with many species of wildflowers, ferns, shrubs and trees that make the Appalachian foothills (Piedmont) such a biologically rich and diverse place. The Blue Trail is a quieter alternative to the Red Trail and allows hikers to return to the trailhead via a loop instead of backtracking.
WHITE (NON-GAME WILDLIFE) TRAIL
3 miles one way. Blazed white. Rated moderate to difficult.
The White Trail passes through some of the most remote areas of the park west of Sweetwater Creek. It connects to the end of the Red and Blue trails following the rapids as they continue down the creek. The trail then turns west and follows Jack’s Branch upstream to Jack’s Lake. This stream community has a great variety of spring wildflowers. Hikers will also pass through areas covered with ferns, Bigleaf Magnolias, Wild Azaleas and Mountain Laurel. After climbing out of the lake valley the trail passes through the Jack’s Hill area, a former farming community now known for its open meadows and a favorite of bird watchers.
More about the White Trail.
YELLOW (EAST SIDE) TRAIL
3-mile loop. Blazed yellow. Rated moderate to difficult.
The Yellow Trail is accessed by entering the Red Trail at the bottom corner of the parking area and then turning left after approximately 150 feet. (Look for the yellow blazes.) It then drops into the creek valley and heads upstream to the bridge across Sweetwater Creek. After crossing the bridge the trail turns downstream where, just past the wooden footbridge, you will find a fork in the path. Those wishing for a more gradual ascent up to the ridge are advised to take the trail to the left (clockwise around the loop). This trail passes through some of the most beautiful hardwood forests in the park and has an elevation gain of approximately 350 feet.
As the trail descends through the ravine on the south side of the loop, look for the large rock overhang on the left. Archaeologists estimate that Native Americans used this as shelter for several thousand years. To protect this area do not climb on the slope or the rocks. When the trail leaves the ravine and levels out you will be walking through many dense stands of Mountain Laurel (beautiful in the spring when they bloom). This is also the area where the bricks for the New Manchester mill were made in the late 1840s.The pits are visible from the trail in the winter.
More about the Yellow Trail.
Click on the map below to download a pdf file of the trail map brochure for Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Printed trail map brochures are also available at the park's Visitor Center.
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