King's Gap Environmental Center Circuit

Description: This is a fairly moderate 8.5 mile circuit hike. If it weren’t for a few long, gradual hills, especially the one at the end, this hike might be classified as easy. It features 3 pastoral views of the surrounding farmland. All stream crossings, even the smallest, are accomplished via foot bridges.


King’s Gap Environmental Education Center is located on 1,450 acres of forest along the northern border of the Michaux Forest. For this reason I describe it as a hike in that forest. In my estimation, the trail system is under-utilized year round. Although the short nature trails close to the center of this facility might get a lot of use the same cannot be said of the “boundary” trails. I’ve hiked there 3 times over the last 2 years and have seen only 4 other hikers total. Two of them were less than 1 mile from the parking lot.


King’s Gap is a great place to visit when the days are short and/or when you wish to introduce others who are in reasonably good shape to the hiking experience.

Google Custom Directions

Turn onto King’s Gap Road. Drive to the top of the hill and follow the circular drive. The visitor center is in the middle of the circle (New one story building, NOT the mansion.)  


Printable/Downloadable Map

Printable/Downloadable Map

View 3-D Map!

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users

Trail Notes: All trails are blazed and signed at intersections. The colors on the map shown here coincide with those on the trail. I am not sure if the Pond Tr (not used in this loop) is blazed.


From the visitor’s center walk over to the Mansion. The hike starts at the kiosk to its left but you might want to check out the view from the mansion’s rear veranda before you start.


From the kiosk follow the red blazed Rock Scree Trail. Cross the park road, 2 intersections of green blazed Forest Heritage Trail and the east junction with the purple blazed Ridge Overlook Trail. Stay on Red blazed Rock Scree Trail. At 0.69 miles from the beginning arrive at the west junction of purple blazed Ridge Overlook Trail. Turn right onto the Overlook trail and climb to a rock formation about 0.3 miles from the trail junction. Signs indicate the overlook.


Proceed another 0.3 miles to the east junction of the Rock Scree Trail heading back towards the mansion. In a few steps turn left onto green blazed Forest Heritage Trail.


In 0.4 miles come to the junction with yellow blazed Maple Hollow Trail. Follow the Maple Hollow Trail, descending at first but then climbing to the intersection with orange blazed Scenic Vista Trail. Following the blazed swath to the right takes you back to the center of the park. Proceed across the swath to pick up the footpath (I call this a zig-zag intersection.).


At 0.54 miles from the swath arrive at a scenic overlook of the gap complete with benches, a great lunch spot. After lunch, continue along the Scenic Vista Trail and in 1.0 miles from the overlook descend to a picnic area and covered amphitheatre. There are rest rooms here.


Cross a driveway to a kiosk and follow the purple blazed Water Shed Trail. The trail will go downhill until it comes to a stream and then turn upstream. The trail then splits (It actually is in itself a small loop trail.). To complete the entire length of the circuit as described take the left fork. To shorten the hike a little bear right.


At the top of the Water Shed Loop Trail come to green blazed Boundary Trail. Follow the green blazes past 2 junctions of orange blazed Locust Point Trail on the right.


At 0.22 miles from the last Locust Pt Tr junction cross the park entrance drive and come to yellow blazed King’s Gap Hollow Trail. Cross the stream on a footbridge. Turn right and follow the yellow blazes back to the starting point (1.44 miles). You’ll pass the eastern terminus of purple blazed Ridge Overlook Trail on your left and cross the park drive again before the final climb.

Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

Critique this outing! ________________________________________





Name: Ed S.                                                                                                              Hike: Kings Gap

Date: 06/01/14                                                                                                       Rating: 3.8


Critique: I made a variant starting from the pine plantation, perhaps a mistake as that area was rather buggy.  It's a nice area, but there are plenty of better hikes in the greater Michaux area, and thus the lower rating.  Most of the overlooks, except for at the mansion and Ridge, are all somewhat grown over.  The mountain laurel was starting to bloom, and the ornamental Catawba Rhododendrons around the mansion were in full bloom; as were assorted flowers in the garden.  Its lily pond had plenty of frogs plus some blooming lilies.  The mansion was open, so I took a quick trek inside.  (The photo is the fireplace mantle.)  A bluegrass band was performing on the lawn outside, mostly Stanley Brothers covers.  With the exceptions of the mansion area and the Scenic Vista Trail, few people were out on the trails.




Name: Danny H                                                                                                       Hike: King's Gap
Date: 3/10/2013                                                                                                    Rating: 4

Critique: I have hiked this on three separate occasions and it never fails to excite me. The trails are marked clearly, the terrain is very easy for the most part at least until you get closer to the top and the King's Gap mansion area at the vista of the hill. Some of the trails you really must be careful on during the winter and spring months.

Here are my tips for seasonal hikers -

Spring: Good spring views can be seen on Ride Overlook, Forest Heritage, and up King's Gap Hollow trails. As always be prepared for sudden rains or spring snows.

Summer: Some of the best places to hike on a humid or even just warm day are the Water Shed, Boundary, Ridge Overlook, and Locust Point trails; you can also check out the Pond trail which has a large 10 feet by 12 feet size pool of water with frogs, bugs, and the usual pond life swimming just below the surface.

Autumn: Good autumn views can be found on all the trails but for best color head up Kings Gap Hollow, Water Shed, or/and Locust Point trails which go up in elevation enough to show off the brilliant forest.

Winter: Good cold weather trails are Locust Point, Forest Heritage, and Boundary trails due to the relative easy terrain. If you decide to go up Kings Gap Hollow or Ride Overlook be prepared for slick surfaces and as always be prepared for sudden rain or snow storms on these steep climbs.


Name: Footloose                                                                                                     Hike: Kings Gap
Date: 11/02/06                                                                                                       Rating: 4.0

Critique: Enjoyed this very pleasant hike on a sunny fall day. Enough elevation change to make it interesting but relatively easy hiking. I didn't start the hike until late morning so took a slightly different, shorter loop-about 6 miles. The trails are very well marked with blazes and directional signs at intersections. Lots of large piliated woodpecker holes in the trees. Only saw one other couple hiking the whole time I was there. Also enjoyed checking out the mansion, water tower and garden. The Kings Gap General Store, across from the entrance to Kings Gap is worth checking out. Real "old-timey" store with groceries, a deli case and decorated with tons of antiques. Got them to make me a sub to pack for my lunch.


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