Distance: 15 km
Elevation gain: 770 mView mapDownload GPS track
Allsmoke mountain is another early season hike we've had on our radar for awhile. We had attempted it last fall, but the road, while plowed, was impassable in my Honda Civic with its top-of-the-line (or so they claimed) Michelin X-Ice2 winter tires and we didn't even get close to the trailhead (I've since gotten new winter tires and had them studded - no problems now!). Snow and ice certainly weren't issues today, but the road was in terrible spring condition and required crawling along at walking speed in several sections to avoid damage or getting stuck.
The trail begins at the Ware Creek Recreational Area located at the end of the highly questionable road known as the Ware Creek Road. This road exits highway 549 to the left a few kilometers west of where the 549 pavement ends. Ware Creek Road once connected the 549 to the 546, but the middle section was permanently closed after the 2005 floods and now the southern section is closed due to the 2013 floods. The remaining section is narrow, very steep in spots (no guardrails) and currently has ruts you wouldn't get a car out of if you were to slip into them.
Once safely parked in the Ware Creek parking lot, we walked back to the road and set off into a large field along old truck tracks. After about a kilometer or so the old road enters forest and becomes very, very, very muddy. It's basically one big swamp for the next kilometer, and detouring into the woods as the seasonal cows seem to do doesn't help the situation a whole lot either. Thankfully calypso orchids like moist soils, so this section of trail has at least one redeeming quality.
After about a kilometer of this or so, encounter a small stream. Cross it (easy) and turn right, following the old road for another 500 m or so until you reach an old road/trail moderately ascending to the left. Follow this for a short distance until a trail branches off to the right. Take this trail and begin the very steep ascent of the eastern ridge of Allsmoke Mountain. The ascent eases soon enough and the trail continues west at a more moderate grade along the ridge. This section of trail is faint in spots, but has been well maintained; if you're a bit inept at following trail just stick to the ridgetop and you'll have a hard time losing it.
After a few kilometers of very pleasant, albeit viewless, hiking encounter a cairn in the middle of the trail. The ridgetop trail essentially ends here and descends a short distance to the left to some large meadows. The treed summit of Allsmoke Mountain is visible to the west from the meadows. You can continue to the summit through the forest starting from the cairn (bushwhacking isn't too bad), or you can stick to the fields and enjoy some views. We navigated via the fields on the way, but the sidesloping involved with this was annoying and on the return we stuck to the ridge. The summit, although partially treed, offers some respectable views to the northwest and many other hikes are visible from it.
To top off our day, some rednecks were taking target practice at the trailhead on our return. Without knowing which way they were shooting it made for an uneasy exit, but as it turned out they weren't shooting in our direction, at least not as we entered the meadows.
While the summit views are decent and the hike, with the exception of the swamp, is nice, the road, rednecks, and swamp push this to the bottom of my re-do list!