Deer Ridge Access Trail

 By Joe Feeman

There are many access points to the Norris Watershed, but one that is little known is off of Deer Ridge Road. The access is on the right, by a bench, about 0.1 miles up Deer Ridge Road from Reservoir Road (across from the elementary school). I have parked at the school (not during school hours) and used this entrance to the watershed.  The trail is open to all but motorized use (purple trail) and is 0.6 miles long. Total elevation gain is approximately 150 feet. As you leave Deer Ridge on an old road, the trail climbs a short, steep hill with a clay surface and flattens out for a ways before descending on a short, but steep slope. This section of trail is not on city property, but is the right of way for the city waterline, so treat it as such and stay on the trail. At the bottom of the slope, a sign will steer you to the right, off the road, and onto a single track trail which is the start of the City-owned ‘dogleg'. You will hike through a dense woodland of primarily yellow poplar with an understory of the exotic plants multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet, cross a wet weather drain, and in a short distance reach a large power line. Continue straight through this power line and the next one as well. The trail then enters the woods at the end of the second power line corridor. If you look along the sides of the trail through the power line you will see orange paint on several trees and fence posts, which delineates the city property line. You will also see paint on trees along the next section through the woods. The corridor is only 50 feet or so wide through here. The trail enters the woods and begins to climb through a nice upland hardwood forest with white oak, hickory, red oaks, and yellow poplar. You will climb from here to the top with only one small depression on a fairly long, moderately steep slope. As you near the top, you will see the Baxter's blueberry farm on the right (there is a trail coming from the blueberry farm, but it leaves the watershed and goes on private property). In a short distance you will come back into the large power line at a junction with a smaller utility line and road. Continue straight across the road and in about 75 feet you will reach Observation Point Trail. If you take a left you will be at the top of Observation Point in about 0.4 miles and if you go right you will get to Reservoir Hill in about 0.4 miles.

This access can be used to create many loops. I started at Eric Harold Park and hiked over to Eagle trail, down to Cliff Trail, up Clear Creek and then up Dyer Hollow and Reservoir Hill Circle to Observation Point Trail, right and over to the power line, then left and down Deer Ridge Access Trail to Deer Ridge Road, right on the sidewalk and back to Eric Harold Park. This hike was about 4.0 miles. If you want a longer loop take Reservoir Hill Circle all the way around to Reservoir Hill Trail to Observation Point Trail and down to the Deer Ridge Access Trail and out. This would make a loop of about 5.7 miles.

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