ApproachUpper Whiteoak Creek Rd
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 south of Horse Rock. There is a trail sign at the edge of the woods, about 100 yards from the crest trail. At crest go right (north) to Celo. The Woody Ridge trail is not blazed, and not maintained except from walking (Hispanics who frequently collecting Galax.) You gain 3300+ feet in 3 miles. Carrying your 4 yo, 40 lb son makes it harder.
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 trails are much 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. Or fill up at the spring at the base of the rock before the climb ramps up.
distance = 10 miles, time = 8 hours, gain = 3300+ feet