Forest Trail 5003, while still shown on the Topo Maps, is not included in any of the hiking guides for the area, nor is it maintained. Originally, a logging access road, and later a route for high power lines snaking up to the mountain top, it remains a forgotten and neglected trek, overshadowed by the nicer and very well marked and maintained trails lying just above it. They all start at the same spot... and, they all wind downhill in the same area. The far nicer Old Cloudcroft Roadway and Cloudclimbing Railway trails get all the attention and use. Additionally, for a short distance near the top of T5003 it passes over private property, leaving access potentially in question. There is one gate, but it remains unlocked and the area is not posted for closure at this time (May 2009).
From the Trailhead in the Village, follow T5001A the less than half mile over to the juncture with T5001 (Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail) and T5002 (Old Cloudcroft Hiway Trail). Turn left onto the Old Hiway Trail (T5002) and follow it down to the old hiway grade (just a few yards downhill). Here, T5002 turns sharply right. Instead, turn left on the old hiway grade and make your way along this unmaintaned and possibly overgrown portion of the old road bed. Proceed for a bit over 100 yards, and as you approach the county maintaince yard, move off the hiway grade, following the old trail/road horseshoeing down the drainage. The path remains clear and easy to follow to the bottom. You will pass through the metal gate in the first half mile, then continue down the hill, accompanied by an assortment of high power lines.
This upper section tends to be somewhat steeper, finally leveling out to an even grade all the way to the bottom. The trail deadends into T5002 near Hiway 82, but there are no direct parking areas near this intersection. It is logical to combine with T5002 or T5004 to make a more interesting loop hike.
This route does avoid the concentration of tourist activity so typical to the upper trails. Elk, Deer, Wild Turkey are common to this drainage.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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