208 - Northwest Horse and Wagon Trail Map
Easy - Moderate. Until the wilderness became the Wilderness, this Northwest Road was a real thoroughfare and is still wide enough for a horse-drawn wagon to make the passage. The path traverses the northern part of the Wilderness and provides some nice scenery, albeit better near the endpoints than in the middle. Horseback riding and horse-drawn wagons are permitted.
Most hikers do not walk 208 by itself but rather use parts of it to connect with other trails. Spotting vehicles at both ends for a one day hike is time-consuming to say the least. But if walking the whole thing, hike in either direction, the considerations being position of the sun and your approach; coming eastward the final mile is uphill, westward it is downhill.
Not surprisingly trail 208 connects roads FS 208 East and FS 208 West. If starting from the eastern end, 208 is the only trail that emanates from the Gum Pond Trailhead. Follow it downhill at first. Trail 207 - Braziel Creek spurs back to the left after about half a mile, and just past the bridge over Hagood Creek, trail 210 - Mitchell Ridge branches to the right. Small trailhead signs indicate both intersections.
Highlights of the eastern section are Braziel Creek way down below, the bluffs on the northern side, and the general beauty of the forest.
The trail continues, crossing the bridge over Braziel Creek, continuing upwards towards the ridge. The trail widens for its amble along the ridge. Trail 224 - Bunyan Hill branches back southward after a while and trail 223 - Gum Pond heads northward another third of a mile beyond that. Trail 208 then starts its descent to the Thompson Trailhead. The scenery picks up again though the path may get sloppy now and then.
If starting from the western side, trail 208 begins at the Thompson Trailhead. Head up the hill past the gate, to your left as you face the Forest Service trailhead display. Just read everything above backwards.
Camping is best in the middle, especially near Braziel Creek. For car camping, this is probably not an option.
I would be remiss in not saying that this is one of the trails where the feral hogs are most evident, especially in the low-lying sections. By all means use the trail, the probability of trouble being low; the pigs do not want to see you either. But these beasts can be dangerous. So if encountered, don't provoke.