The short, relatively easy Phillips Creek Loop (also known as the Pine Mountain Trail) begins in a pleasant recreation area that is open May 15 to September 15 and provides paid parking, swimming, restrooms and secluded picnic areas. The trail is open for hiking all year, but since the area is gated (and the restrooms are closed) in the off-season, you must park your car at the gate and walk about a half mile to the trailhead.
From the information kiosk, follow a footbridge into a forest, which includes thickets of rhododendron and a stand of white pines. On the first half of the loop you will walk alongside Phillips Creek. Keep your eyes open for an old hunting camp used by Native Americans, as well as the site of an old moonshine still located across the creek. These sites are not well-marked. Since they are not obvious, consider calling the Clinch Ranger District (276-328-2931) to order an informational brochure explaining the various points of interest along the trail.
At the far end of the loop is a scenic waterfall along a sandstone cliff. The trek back to the parking lot travels on an old railroad bed that was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to haul logs.
Parking and Trail Access
To access this trail, take US 23 north near Norton toward Pound. As you approach Pound, stay on US 23 (do not turn onto Business 23). Turn west onto State Route 671 and follow it for about 5.5 miles to the marked Phillips Creek Recreation Area. The trailhead is located all the way down the gravel road, past the swimming area and all the picnic areas. It is marked by a footbridge and information kiosk noting "Pine Mountain Trail."