Day Loop Trail – Long Hunter State Park

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This past weekend I had my first Sunday completely off and free from prior plans in what felt like forever, so I decided to enjoy the morning hiking in Long Hunter State Park, which I haven’t been to since February of this year.  I decided to shake it up this time and tackle the 4.5 mile Day Loop Trail for a change (see here for a map of the park and trails).

The sign lies - it's 4.5 miles, not 4
The sign lies – it’s 4.5 miles, not 4

Originally I was supposed to meet a friend at the trailhead, but after they had to bow out the night before, I decided to continue solo.  It worked out in a fashion because by the time I pulled in at 9:30am, the tiny parking lot was already full and I quickly claimed the last spot.

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What first struck me about the trail was how easy it was – narrow, to be sure, but I never once struggled or had to stop to catch my breath, which made for a very pleasant way to spend the morning.

The jankiest bridge I have seen in a long time
The jankiest bridge I have seen in a long time

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As the word “loop” in the name suggests, the trail splits after the 1st half mile. I chose to take the path on the right, which cut away from Percy Priest lake and further into the woods. Aside from a few families with small babies strapped to their backs and a couple of trail runners, I didn’t run into hardly anyone, and with zero noises from roads, it felt at times like I had the whole park to myself.

Another misleading sign - the loop goes both to the left and the right - it's just faster to get to the Volunteer Trail if you head right rather than left
Another misleading sign – the loop goes both to the left and the right – it’s just faster to get to the Volunteer Trail if you head right rather than left

A little less than halfway through the loop (1.4 miles, to be exact), you have the option of either staying on the Day Loop, or veering to the right and hiking the Volunteer Trail, which is 6 miles one-way leading to a rustic campsite.  I was incredibly tempted to try the Volunteer Trail – I had plenty of food and water, and I’d really like to check out the campground area before making plans to stay there sometime – but the humidity was already at 80% on a 90º day, so I ultimately decided I had started hiking a little too late in the morning and I would try again another weekend, while attempting to avoid the heat of the day.

Finally!  An accurate sign!
Finally! An accurate sign!

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The last half of the Day loop is gorgeous!  The trail cuts back towards Percy Priest Lake, which allows for gorgeous views of the water through the trees, as well as cool, refreshing breezes.

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I finished the 4.5 miles in 2 hours, although the trail was so effortless, I could have finished faster if I hadn’t stopped to take pictures, go over the map and read about the Volunteer Trail, or had a quick conversation with my mom (who knew I would have cell service in the middle of nowhere??).  But thankfully for me, I care less about how rapidly I can finish and more about the actual journey itself.

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