Three beautiful lakes in one short hike. Being very close to other hot spots in the forest make this hike a worthy destination.
Deep within the DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina is the short but beautiful Three Lakes Trail that provides excellent views of Lakes Dense, Alford and Julia.
The trailhead Three Lakes trail starts inside the DuPont State Forest and, while it can be a destination unto itself, it can also be a nice add-on hike to other destinations in the area like Bridal Veil Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, or High Falls. The most direct way of reaching the Three Lakes Trail would be to park at the High Falls Parking area at 1400 Staton Road in Cedar Mountain North Carolina. The drive to the parking lot is very pleasant taking you through beautiful and scenic Carolina country roads with plenty of signage along the way. It is located 25 minutes from downtown Hendersonville North Carolina an hour from Asheville North Carolina or Greenville South Carolina. While the High Falls Parking Area is large, the DuPont State Forest is a very popular spot and it can be crowded at times. There are well maintained restroom facilities and a visitor center at the High Falls Parking area.
The Three Lakes Trail is just short of a mile but the trailhead is located about 1.3 miles inside the forest making the total hike, if you hike just the Three Lakes Trail, about 2.2 miles. It is a one-way trail that is connected via Conservation road and, while it can be started from either side, starting it from the far side is preferred.
To reach the trailhead from the High Falls Parking Area, head up Buck Forest Road towards the covered bridge. Buck Forest Road is literally a dirt road with restricted vehicle access. Odds are you won’t encounter any vehicles on the road but it is a multi-use trail so you will likely encounter mountain bikers and possibly some people on horseback. Head up Buck Forest Road and after 1/2 mile you will encounter a picturesque covered bridge at the top of High Falls. Just after the covered bridge turn right on Conservation Road and continue for about 1/2 mile. The close side of the trail would be reached by turning left on Joanna Road and heading up about 1/10 mile, however continuing up conservation road another 2/10’s mile to the well marked Three Lakes Trailhead is a better option.
As you depart Conservation Road on the Three Lakes Trail, you will quickly disappear into the forest on this easily hiked trail that has very little elevation change. This is a multi-use trail so watch for mountain bikers who may also be enjoying it. The trail quickly offers nice views of the Lake Julia Spillway as it loosely follows it up to a beautiful view of the 100 acre Lake Julia.
Continuing on the trail another 2/10’s mile past Lake Julia you will arrive at the clear and much smaller Lake Alford where a picnic bench and covered fishing pier awaits your arrival. While you haven’t been hiking very far, take the time to relax and enjoy the stillness of Lake Alford before continuing on.
The trail will widen up as you make your way to Lake Dense as horses are allowed on this section on the trail. Continue another 3/10’s mile and you will arrive at the treasure of this short trail – Lake Dense. At only 5 acres, Lake Dense is the perfect size. It has two fishing piers, one of which is covered, along with a nice covered area with multiple picnic tables. It also has a wonderful view of Joanna Mountain that compels you to just relax and savor the moment. It really is a beautiful spot that you need to experience to appreciate.
When you are ready to leave Lake Dense, continue on the trail very briefly until you reach Joanna Road where you will turn left to return to Conservation Road. From here you can go right back to the parking lot or continue on to other great destinations inside DuPont State Forest.