Youngs Mountain Trail is a new 2.1-mile hiking trail (4.2 miles round-trip) located on the north side of Lake Lure. It ascends 1,200 feet in elevation to reach the top of scenic cliffs near the summit of the mountain. This dramatic destination offers panoramic views of Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald, Weed Patch Mountain, and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. On a clear day, Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains are also visible.

This trail traverses 437 acres of land protected by Conserving Carolina. It is the newest addition to the emerging Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail network, and will one day connect to other trails, including the nearby Weed Patch Mountain Trail. The Youngs Mountain Trail also represents a likely future connection between the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail and the proposed Wilderness Gateway State Trail, which will ultimately extend as far east as Hickory.

Length: 4.2 miles out-and-back (2.1 miles each way)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Great For: Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

  • Spring view from Youngs Mountain Trail. By Pat Barcas.
  • Bob Carlson and Kim Chao on Youngs Mountain Trail
  • Youngs Mountain Trail with flowers
  • Butterfly on Youngs Mountain - by Gordon Tutor
  • Sumac with Rumbling Bald in the background. Photo by Gordon Tutor.
  • Steps on Youngs Mountain Trail. By Pat Barcas.
  • AmeriCorps and Rock Crushers on Youngs Mountain
  • Lichens on Youngs Mountain Summit
  • View from Youngs Mountain Trail. By Pat Barcas.
  • View of Rumbling Bald and Shumont from Youngs Mountain Trail. By Pat Barcas.
  • View from top of Youngs Mountain Trail – by Rose Lane (2)


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How to Get to Youngs Mountain Trail

There is extremely limited parking available at the current Youngs Mountain trailhead, which is located within the gated Tatanka community north of Lake Lure. Conserving Carolina is working toward a future extension that will add approximately 1.5 miles to the trail and connect to a larger parking area outside of the gated neighborhood.

Currently, parking is free and available to the public but you must register for a pass for one of the limited parking spaces. To register, go here. Once you are registered for a parking pass, Conserving Carolina will send you the gate code and directions to the trailhead.


Youngs Mountain Trail Map

Youngs Mountain Trail Map

What to Look for on Youngs Mountain

  • Picturesque woodland streams and a small, splashing waterfall
  • Abundant wildlife, including deer, bear, coyotes, bobcats, and flying squirrels
  • Wildflowers, such as bloodroot, trillium, Carolina allspice, and native azaleas
  • Rare moss and lichens on rock outcrops (don’t step on them!)
  • Multiple rock outcrops with gorgeous views, including dramatic overhanging rocks
  • State-of-the-art sustainable trail building, including more than 300 stone or log steps
  • Spectacular views from the summit overlooking Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald, and Weed Patch Mountain



Hiking Youngs Mountain

The Youngs Mountain Trail is a 4.2-mile round-trip, out and back hike that rises 1200 feet in elevation, climbing up log and stone stairsteps for much of the way. It is a remote and strenuous hike, well worth it for the spectacular views from the summit. Please be prepared! Bring plenty of food and water. You may need protection from sun, wind, or weather on the exposed summit, so bring layers and sunblock. Use great caution around the exposed cliffs and rock outcrops, bearing in mind that a fall could be deadly. This hike may not be appropriate for pets or children.

At the parking area, make sure not to block the gated driveway. From the parking area, look for the kiosk and the trailhead on the right side of the road. The trail begins by traversing through gentle and rolling forest and crosses several picturesque small streams. Around half a mile from the trailhead, you will come to a small, splashing waterfall. After this point the trail begins to climb more steeply, including numerous log steps. Several dramatic rock outcrops offer beautiful views of the surrounding cliffs, mountains, valleys, and lakes.

Bob Carlson and Kim Chao on Youngs Mountain Trail
Volunteers Bob Carlson and Kim Chao on Youngs Mountain Trail

The trail culminates on the summit of Youngs Mountain, which offers spectacular views over Lake Lure and the sheer rock faces of Rumbling Bald, Shumont Mountain, and Eagle Rock. You can also see Weed Patch Mountain, Buffalo Creek Park, and the lower Hickory Nut Gorge. On a clear day, you may see Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains. You can also see a vast stretch of the Piedmont to the southeast.

The summit and other rock outcrops on Youngs Mountain are home to unique alpine communities that include rare and endangered lichens, mosses, plants, and wildlife. Please stay within the designated trail to protect these rare communities, and the biodiversity that they support.

Youngs Mountain is an out-and-back trail. When you reach the endpoint on the summit of Youngs Mountain, enjoy the view. When you are ready, turn around and hike back the way you came.

Spring view from Youngs Mountain Trail. Photo by Pat Barcas.
Photo by Pat Barcas.

Youngs Mountain Trail Rules

  • Stay on designated trails/areas.
  • Keep pets on leash and under control.
  • Do not disturb plants, animals, or other natural or cultural resources.
  • No campfires or camping
  • No hunting, trapping, or firearms
  • Hiking only. No bikes, horses, or motorized vehicles.
  • Park in designated areas only. Vehicles outside of this area will be towed at owner’s expense.
  • No commercial activity (unless permitted by Conserving Carolina)
  • Trail open dawn to dusk
  • No alcohol or illegal substances.
  • Do not litter. Pack in, pack out. This includes dog poop! Bag your pet’s poop and carry it out with you.
  • Hike at your own risk.

Sustainable Trail Building

The Youngs Mountain Trail is a state-of-the-art, sustainable trail. Two other Conserving Carolina trails—Wildcat Rock Trail and Weed Patch Mountain Trail—have already won national awards for excellence in design and construction and the Youngs Mountain Trail meets the same high bar for excellence.

Trails that are not built with sustainability in mind can soon develop problems with erosion, as water runs down the path and washes away soil. The muddy runoff pollutes streams and the washed out trails become unsightly and difficult to travel. It can be time-intensive and costly to manage erosion on trails that were not designed for sustainability.

To avoid this on Youngs Mountain, we designed the trail to roll up-and-down and curve side-to-side. These rises, dips, and curves shed water, so it doesn’t run down the trail. On the steepest sections of trail, we built stairs to ensure a sturdy, non-eroding trail. Most of the stairs are constructed of durable locust logs, filled with gravel that was made from nearby rocks by our aptly named Rock Crushers trail crew. You will also see hand-built stone drains, carrying water away from the trail.

Sustainable trails reduce impacts on the surrounding natural environment. They also provide a pleasant hiking experience for people on the trail. In addition to sustainable trail design features, we hope you enjoy creative trail elements as you travel over streams and stones to the rocky summit.

The Youngs Mountain Trail was designed by Conserving Carolina’s Trails Specialist, Peter Barr. Construction was completed by Singletrack Trails and its award-winning trail builder Shrimper Khare and supplemented by Conserving Carolina’s Rock Crushers volunteer trail crew. Additional features on the trail were built by Benchmark Trails and American Conservation Experience. 

How Youngs Mountain Was Protected

The Youngs Mountain Trail passes through 437 acres of habitat that Conserving Carolina helped to protect. Youngs Mountain is a natural treasure that is home to many rare and endangered plants and wildlife. The mountain is part of the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the mountains rise from the Piedmont. The swift elevation change of the escarpment creates a wide range of niches for plants and wildlife, supporting extraordinary biodiversity.

In fact, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been identified as the #1 priority in the U.S. for conservation of biodiversity by the National Academy of Sciences. As the climate changes, many species will need to adapt by shifting their range further north or higher in elevation. Youngs Mountain provide an important link in the migration corridors these creatures need to survive.

Butterfly on Youngs Mountain Trail. Photo by Gordon Tutor.
Photo by Gordon Tutor.

With the support of our donors and many partners, Conserving Carolina was able to protect this exceptional mountain land forever. Conserving Carolina owns two parcels of land that total about 341 acres. The trail also passes through some 96 acres owned by Rutherford County Parks and Recreation, which worked with Conserving Carolina to protect the land. The trail opened on April 21, 2021. Learn more. 

Vital support for this conservation project and the Youngs Mountain Trail came from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, RHI Legacy Fund, Rutherford County, Recreational Trails Program, NC Land and Water Fund, Open Space Institute, Fred & Alice Stanback, Tim Sweeney, and Tommy Hartzog.