Running WNC’s Point Lookout Trail

The c. 1885 Andrews Geyser (Photo / T. Flynn)

OLD FORT, N.C. – Twenty miles east of Asheville is the McDowell County town of Old Fort, North Carolina. It’s tucked just inside the Eastern Continental Divide as it’s intersected by US I-40.

Before I-40 existed there were two incarnations of NC Highway 70 that provided an East-West route through the western portion of the state. On the outskirts of Old Fort a stretch of the original has been closed down, turned into a trail (of sorts), and renamed Point Lookout Trail. Point Lookout was a tourist stop on the highway that Model-T’s and their drivers could pause for a scenic respite from their ascent. Surely, many of those same cars gave up the ghost beneath the strain. Hopefully they reached Point Lookout first.

On Saturday, I set out for a run on the roughly 3.7 mile stretch of pavement that constitutes the trail. Due to little research beyond how to find it, I didn’t realize that it’s entirely uphill when undertaken from the Old Fort side. A silver lining is that the second leg of an out and back is all downhill.

An alternate route back along Mill Creek Road yields an excellent view of Andrews Geyser, an 1885 fountain built by a no-longer existent hotel. It signaled to passing train passengers that they had reached the Blue Ridge Mountains. It remains as an impressive a sight now as it surely was then.

It is a win/win in return choices as running back down Point Lookout Trail could readily yield a PR in the 5k if you clock out at 3.1 miles. As you return downhill, stay to your left as you will have plenty of time to see bikes laboring uphill (as they will to see you), but little if any notice if a cyclist enjoying a deserved breakneck descent approaches from behind. – TF