Thursday, May 25, 2017

4x4 Jeep Trail off of Coal Road/ Cold Spring Bald Mountain Trail (FR 162)

The Cold Spring Bald Mountain Trail (FR 162) also known as the Coal Road 4x4 Jeep Trail has access points from the Blue Ridge Parkway Bald Mountain Overlook MP 22.1 and Coal Road. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the top of the trail, and Coal Road is the bottom. 

Here's a link to the trail on Google Maps to help you find it.

I have a lot of young drivers new to 4WDing asking me about this road. Please be patient as I add info for them. My goal is to share something we enjoy and also keep the newbies as safe as possible. 

This trail can be done in a stock Jeep. If you have that clearance and 4WD, you should not have a problem. We did it in a 1999 4WD Suburban which we also use on our farm. 

Conditions change from day to day, year to year. Keep that in mind. The trail is closed in the winter months. The trail is rocky with some muddy and some sandy areas. We have been when the boulders that make up parts of the width of the road were slick with algae. 

When you talk about difficulty, that seems subjective based on experience. We did not find this trail difficult or even moderate. Our trip was after a rain, and there was one mud puddle about as long as our suburban. It was deep enough to cause a few seconds of concern, but Clint got us through it. 

You do get jostled around because it is rocky and uneven. You do need to know about off camber turns, clearance, center of gravity, how 4WD traction works, differentials, etc. 

We took the main trail and did not have any major issues with clearance or with the width of the road. 

 photo IMG_6393_zpsduuajbao.jpg
The license plate is a victim of a forest 4WD adventure and 
is on the dashboard in the window.

This link should take you to my album of pictures of the trail. We did not take the alternate trails. We also did not get to stop at the clearing with Green Pond on this trip. We were trying to get through before a thunderstorm and get back to camp before dark. So, I was not able to get pictures of those places. 

There are pit vipers when the weather is warm. Be aware of that if you decide to go behind bushes to use nature as a restroom. I do not like snakes, spiders, or ticks. We simply waited until we had the trail to ourselves and took turns in a clearing right next to the trail with the Suburban blocking the view, just in case. You can hear the trucks coming most of the time.

If you do not stop and stick to the main trail, you can get through the trail in under two and a half hours. We stopped briefly for overlooks, pictures, and to use the restroom. We got through it in just under three. We had been told the minimum time to get through it was six hours. They may have taken alternate trails and/or longer breaks. You need to go as slow as possible and as fast as necessary. Off-roading is hard on a vehicle.

I recommend going up the trail for the first visit for inexperienced drivers. There are a series of switchbacks and some off camber turns. 

The standard recommendation is to go with another person or a group. This is helpful if you break down or get stuck. If you can't go with someone else, go earlier in the day. That ensures someone will come across you before nightfall.

There is really only one place you could benefit from having a spotter to get over a particular set of boulders, but there is an easy drive around for this spot. 

Take vehicle repair tools, a spare tire, snacks, water, and anything else you might pack for a day trip. On this trip, we saw lots of fathers with children, but no other women driving or riding in 4x4s besides me and my daughter. There are local firemen who frequent the trail in their own personal vehicles. They've been on the trail every time we've gone. We've found them to be a jovial, friendly, and helpful bunch.

There are loose rocks, stream fed puddles, hikers, bikers, and other vehicles. There may be tent campers in some of the camping areas.

There are blind curves, and the trail is fairly narrow in spots. You might have to back up a ways to find a place to make room for someone to pass. You might have to patiently crawl along as hikers make their way to a place wide enough you can pass them. We've even seen a couple walking their hyper dogs. Brush is thick and leaves light "pin-striping," but it buffs out. I've been told the alternate trails can leave permanent pin-striping from the rocks.

It CAN be dangerous. We have seen an accident that had the road shut down for a few hours. However, I feel like we are in more danger in heavy 70 mph traffic on the interstate than on this trail. 

I hope this helps someone enjoy the trail! Have fun, and please share a picture of your experience!

When we go again, I hope to have more pictures to add to the album.