"Rough Creek Watershed" Trail System


"Enjoy the History, Ecology, and Beauty


Canton and Haywood County"

Mtn View from Rough Creek

   The Rough Creek Watershed property consists of over 870 acres of beautiful & majestic land, owned by the Town of Canton.  This property is located on the south side of the Newfound Mountain Range, approximately 5 miles north of the Town of Canton in Western North Carolina.  The Rough Creek Watershed Trail System is comprised of 3 trails of various distances, totaling 10+ miles.  This immense natural resource is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC FOR HIKING & MOUNTAIN BIKING YEAR ROUND!  

History of Rough Creek Watershed

   The watershed was settled by early pioneers in the 1800's.  There were several home sites & a school within the watershed which can still be located by observing rock walls, areas of naturalized plantings, & apple orchards.  The orchards are interesting as they contain many species of heirloom apples which have become rare due to development & the advent of hybrid breeds.  Higher elevation areas were used for grazing livestock & apple orchards.  Lower areas of the watershed were left wild, indicated by the old-growth hemlock trees flocking the lower slopes of the creek.  By the early 1900's, settlers had moved out & the Town of Canton designated the watershed as protected.  From that point, very little human interaction occurred until selective logging in the 1970's and 1980's.  

   In 1979 the Society of American Forestry listed the area as an outstanding ecological site.  On February 28th, 1997 it was certified as a North Carolina Registered Natural Heritage Area (NCRNHA), because of its unique Swamp Forest-Bog complex (Glades section) that contained many rare & endangered plants.  Recognized in August of 2000, for its high quality water & both State & National ecological significance, the Rough Creek Watershed was classified by both the North Carolina Division of Water Quality & North Carolina General Assembly, as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW). 

   In 2002, with the help of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), a partnership was created between the Town of Canton & the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund.  This relationship has led to the establishment of a conservation easement throughout the Rough Creek property, ensuring the protection of its unique forest ecosystem & natural resources. 

Ecology of Rough Creek

   The Rough Creek Watershed is 870 acres of protected mountain land north of Canton, NC.  It was closed to public access when it was used as a water resource for the Town of Canton.  This area is an excellent example of near pristine ecosystems of the Great Smoky Mountain Region.  It contains nearly 7 miles of streams, numerous seeps, springs, & swamp/bog areas which have become fairly uncommon with human inhabitance of the region.   

   The watershed contains many species of interesting & rare plants (painted trillium, whorled pogonia) as well as a large & diverse animal population (salamanders, turkey, bear, bobcats, songbirds).  This diversity provides the residents of Haywood County, & particularly the Town of Canton, an opportunity to experience in their own back yard biodiversity similar to that found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

   The water found in Rough Creek Watershed is classified by the State of North Carolina as an outstanding water resource.  The purity of the water rivals and often exceeds comparison to other protected waters in the state.

Directions to Rough Creek Watershed

   The Rough Creek Watershed can be easily accessed from the Town of Canton &/or Interstate 40. 

Trail Description

   From the parking area below the caretaker's house, access the trail by following the roadbed through the pasture to the gated entrance of the watershed.  (Please note that the road goes through private property & leaving the road bed is PROHIBITED). 

   Close the gate & continue up the road to a signed intersection.  At the intersection, go either left or right & follow the signs to the lower trail head for Cherry Cove Trail.  On Cherry Cove Trail, follow the trail signs to the West Boundary Road.  Go right on the road & rejoin Cherry Cove Trail where it goes back into the woods (a right turn).  Cherry Cove Trail will end at the East Boundary Road.  To return to the parking area, either backtrack on Cherry Cove Trail or turn right & follow the signs back to the entrance road. 

Rules for Use of the Watershed Trail System

  1. Hiking & mountain biking are allowed only on designated trails;
  2. NO horses, dogs, or motorized vehicles;
  3. Remember, DO NOT leave the trails.  Protection of the ecosystem & water quality is of utmost importance;
  4. Please try to avoid use of disposable containers within the watershed.  Pack out what you bring into the Watershed;
  5. "Leave No Trace" practices are required.  This includes leaving what you find & respecting wildlife & other hikers.  Take nothing but pictures & memories & leave nothing but footprints.
  6. ONLY day use of the watershed is permitted;
  7. NO hunting, firearms, fishing or harvesting of plants allowed; &
  8. NO drug or alcohol use or other illegal activities are allowed.

Friends of Rough Creek Watershed

Mission Statement:

   The "Friends of Rough Creek Watershed" is a wonderful organization dedicated to providing assistance to the Town of Canton in protecting, preserving & sustainably managing Rough Creek Watershed & its public use trail as directed by the Watershed Management Plan. 

Organizational Goals:

  • To assist the Town of Canton in protecting the land resources within the watershed boundaries;
  • To monitor & evaluate impacts on ecological stability & provide guidance to mitigate threats to water quality;
  • To assist the Town of Canton in funding management of the watershed property;
  • To foster environmental research & interpretive experiences for the public; &
  • To help Haywood County residents become more physically active & find emotional & intellectual satisfaction by being a part of something larger than themselves.            


Map & Information

A large format map can be found on the information kiosk at the Rough Creek Watershed Trail System.

For a printable 8.5 x 11 map CLICK HERE.

Explore the Rough Creek Watershed with the interactive map below.


View Larger Map

Contact Information

To learn more about the Rough Creek Watershed and it's Trail System or to join the "Friends of Rough Creek", please contact the Town of Canton at (828) 648-2363.