June 19, 2012.
I’ve been going to Stuart Recreation Area (aka, Stuarts Park) since I was a kid, but had somehow never noticed the River Loop Trail. I decided to give it a try (and unknowingly only did half of the trail- whoops. No worries, I’ve done the whole thing multiple times now.) It starts in a swampy, skunk-cabbage-and-fern stretch of forest with many access trails to the river on the other side.
The trail is decently maintained and flat through this area. It’s a catch and release area on the river side, but I wouldn’t recommend straying from the path on the forested side- it’s super swampy.
Something tells me that picnic table hasn’t been used in a while. After this, the trail crosses a small stream (one old bridge is tossed aside and another, crooked bridge exists now) and heads up the mountainside. The grade is relatively steep and washed out, though it is short. A tree has fallen across the trail, but it’s easy to navigate over.
This section of the trail leads back to the road. You’ll need to make a right and follow the road if you want to return to the recreation area. There’s a mountainside spring on the left side at the junction of the road to Bickle Knob- it’s frequently visited, but I’ve never drank from it myself.
The road back to the recreation area is a gentle downhill slope- this is where we unknowingly passed the other half of the River Loop Trail. Whoops! Instead, we followed the road and entered the swimming hole area. Please forgive my over-filtering on this photo…it was one of my very first instagram posts (It’s okay to cringe- I did, too.)