The United States Congress designated the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness (map
) in 1975 and it now has a total of 17,394 acres
It is managed by the Forest Service.
The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness is bordered by
the Citico Creek Wilderness
to the west.
Joyce Kilmer acquired some fame as a journalist, serving on the staff of the New York Times from 1913 to 1918, but most people remember him as the author of the poem "Trees" ("I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree"). He died in action in World War I. The 3,800 acres of North Carolina's Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest--perhaps the single most impressive growth of eastern virgin forest in the United States, with many trees hundreds of years old--is a part of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and borders Citico Creek Wilderness. Except for its northwestern section preserving the northwestern corner of Nantahala National Forest, this Wilderness is in North Carolina.
Spared the keen edge of the ax when bankruptcy closed the local logging company in 1890, this Wilderness contains some magnificent old-growth forest, where oaks, hemlocks, and tulip poplars have reached six feet in diameter. The forest also includes yellow pine, sycamore, basswood, dogwood, beech, and oak, with a wild understory of shrubs, vines, ferns, mosses, lichens, liverworts, and herbaceous plants. Wildflowers bloom in spring sunshine but fade when the trees leaf out, darkening the forest floor.
Six trailheads provide access to more than 60 miles of trail (in the entire Wilderness), which typically follow ridge tops or drop into the shady drainages. Camping is permitted anywhere in the small Tennessee portion of the Wilderness, but sections in North Carolina are closed. The Stiff Knee Trail (3.4 miles) follows Little Slickrock Creek across the Tennessee portion to a junction with the Slickrock Creek Trail (13.3 miles), longer and more beautiful than any trail in the entire Wilderness. You can see some of the best of the old growth along the Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail, a 1.2-mile path ambling through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.