State park offers night hikes to Luther Rock

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 9, 2013

Mt. Jefferson provides some of Ashe County’s most scenic views, and now, hikers can get a view from the park at night.

Park rangers at Mt. Jefferson State Park are offering free night hikes for those willing to brave the mountain after dark. The hike will be approximately one mile and will take folks to the Luther Rock Peak.

Park superintendent Joseph Shimel said the hikes provide an opportunity for people to see the views from Mt. Jefferson at night, when the park is typically closed.

Shimel said the night hikes at the mountain are different than what hikers typically see in the daytime.

“Seeing that trail at night is just a different world,” he said. “The feel of the hike is entirely different.”

The hikes are led by park ranger Tom Randolph, who has been doing the hikes for two years.

“We start the hikes off with general questions, so we answer anything that people need to know,” he said. “We talk a bit about the stars that we see at night, the nocturnal animals and the history of the park.”

Randolph said there is also potential of seeing different meteor showers, flares and the International Space Station. Also, some of the nocturnal animals are found along the trail.

The night hikes also bring a nostalgic past to the area. Shimel said many people don’t go out in the woods at night anymore.

While the hikes are not necessarily set in stone as to how often they occur, Shimel said they typically happen once a month.

“We have scheduled programs offered every weekend and we try to offer up different things throughout the year,” he said.

Sometimes, the hikes might involve storytelling, as a way for the hikers to experience folklore on the trail.

“I have picked up quite a few stories over the years up here,” Randolph said. “So we do storytelling conferences from time to time.”

The next night hike will take place on Friday, Sept. 13. Hikers should arrive at 7 p.m. and meet at the park office.

Randolph said he leaves the park gates open until 7:15 p.m. before closing them for the hike.

Since parts of the trail are considered strenuous and can be difficult to navigate at night, hikers should bring a small flashlight and wear appropriate footwear. Children are welcome to hike as well, but should be over 7 and will need to be closely watched.

Since Mt. Jefferson became a state park in 1956, free programs have been offered to the public. The night hikes have become just one of the many free events the state park offers.

“Education programs have been taking place since the park opened,” Shimel said.

For more information on the Mt. Jefferson night hikes, call the state park at (336) 246-9653.