ApproachUpper Whiteoak Creek Road. (Off NC 80)
Route DescriptionThere are no signs indicating the TH and there are multiple logging roads on the first 1/3 of hike (up to the "large rock"). It is steep and it is confusing. At the base of a large rock is a great spring. At this rock is where the trail really steepens. The switchbacks on the South Toe trail map do not exist. The middle 1/3 is the worst, it eases up higher on the ridge. The trail makes the crest between Horse Rock and Gibbs Mt.There is a trail sign at the edge of the woods, about 100 yards from the crest trail. At the summit crest go left (south) to Gibbes Mt. The Woody Ridge trail is not blazed, and not maintained except from walking (Hispanics who frequently collecting Galax. Heavy bags and huffing it down the trail.) You gain 3300+ feet in 3 miles.
In my opinion the Woody Ridge trail is the steepest, most sustained climb in the south. The only other trails I can think of that are steeper are Pinch In and Sandy Flats in Linville Gorge (but these are shorter). That being said, the views from the summit and Horse Rock are absolutely without comparison on a clear day. Closest water on Bowlens Creek trail about 3 switchbacks down off Celo down the trail. Or fill up at the spring at the base of the rock before the climb ramps up.
The route has plentiful downfall. It is poorly maintained
distance = 10 miles, time = 8 hours, gain = 3300+ feet
in 3 miles. Carrying your 4 yo, 40 lb son makes it harder.