Numerous streams drain from a major northeast-southwest-trending ridge crest in Big Laurel Branch Wilderness, which includes the completely forested southern end of Iron Mountain. Hidden behind Iron Mountain's double parallel crests are the valleys of Big Laurel Branch and Little Laurel Branch. The former, on the western side of the crest, eases out of seclusion until it runs into Wilbur Lake on the edge of the Wilderness. Sheer rock walls herald the blue jewel, and Big Laurel Branch gracefully plunges 50 feet to join the lake. Waterways here typically plummet over cascades, slides, and short falls into hollows (choked with rhododendron and laurel) separated by narrow ridges that run east-west from the main ridge. Mixed second-growth hardwoods dominate the forest cover, occasionally sharing turf with yellow and white pines and eastern hemlocks. From Watauga Lake, which forms most of the southern Wilderness boundary, you can see many of the cliffs along the eastern side of the main crest. Just south of Watauga Lake lies Pond Mountain Wilderness. Hunters come here seeking deer and grouse. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) follows the entire length of the crest of the Wilderness, a distance of about 5.8 miles, with a shelter about midway. Off-trail bushwhacking is a possibility and your sense of isolation should be worth the effort, especially in the valley of Big Laurel Branch.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 - Public law 115-334 (12/20/2018) To provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023, and for other purposes.