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Padgett Poplar Tree Trail


The forest edges and openings along Rich Gap Road provide excellent birding opportunities for a variety of breeding and migrating songbirds, especially during spring and fall migration. Start near the Forest Service kiosk on Rich Gap Road, near its junction with Horse Cove Road, and proceed down Rich Gap Road on foot or by car. The road has relatively infrequent vehicle traffic and there are numerous pull-offs for parking. The gated Forest Service road (FR 4662) on the west side of Rich Gap Road, approximately 1.5 miles past the beginning of Rich Gap Road, provides good birding away from the road. The four-century old 'Bob Padgett' Tulip Poplar, across from the Forest Service kiosk at the beginning of Rich Gap Road, measures 20 feet in circumference and 127 feet tall, with a crown spread of almost 76 feet. It is the third largest tree of its kind in the US. The Chattooga River, designated a Wild and Scenic River, is nearby. To reach the river, continue on Horse Cove Road 1.8 miles past Rich Gap Road and turn right on Bull Pen Road. Continue 3 miles on Bull Pen Road to the river, where there is access to a trail running along the river.

Species of Interest (Full Bird List)

Blue-headed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager


northern hardwood/cove forest, oak forest & mixed hardwoods/pine

Special Features/Concerns

Hunting is allowed on Nantahala National Forest lands during certain times of the year. Birders should be aware of current hunting regulations and seasons, and take adequate safety precautions during those times. For more on hunting precautions, see the hunting season information at the beginning of this guide.

Access and Parking

Additional parking is available at pull-offs along Rich Gap Road. The site is open daily during daylight hours.


From downtown Highlands, proceed east on Main Street. The street name will change toHorse Cove Road (SR 1603). Continue on Horse Cove Road for 2.2 miles, past Highlands Nature Center and down into Horse Cove Valley, to the junction of Rich Gap Road (FR 401). Turn right on Rich Gap Road and proceed approximately 300 feet to a parking area and kiosk on the left side of the road.

Google Directions

Delorme Gazetteer Page


Bird List

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