This low-key loop in the shadow of Mount Ellinor makes for a great respite on a hot summer day or a low-country winter ramble when it's rainy. The shade of the deciduous trees makes it cool in the summer and provides a nice umbrella in the rain. Burbling creeks of varying sizes keep you constant company on this loop, and places to sit and rest are dotted all along the way.
From the large and luxurious parking Big Creek Campground, look for the Upper Big Creek Loop (Trail 827). Initially quite a flat route heading straight towards Big Creek, the trail weaves through the forest for a short bit before arriving at a large bridge that crosses the creek. Crossing this bridge, you step onto the true Big Creek loop trail.
Head downstream on the wide trail, then take a switchback to begin ascending. The forest is open here, but the cool shade offered from the enormous bigleaf maples is still sufficient to cool you off on a hot day. Look for benches to rest on, and peek through the trees to find Mount Washington. A mile in, the trail gets steeper, and about another mile in, look for a junction. Taking the right trail will deliver you to the confluence of three creeks and several good spots to take lunch.
Back on the main trail, you'll arrive at a junction with the Mount Ellinor Trail. It's 1.4 miles to the main trail up Mount Ellinor, a challenging, steep hike to this extremely popular location on the Peninsula. It's a worthy destination, and if you have time, worth working into your outing here.
But if there's no time for it, continue on and head for another creek crossing. From this, and another bridge a bit further on, you'll have good views of Big Creek.
Hiking on the main trail, you'll see the Creek Confluence Trail rejoin the main route two miles in. Staying left here, follow an old road grade lined with rhododendrons to finish the hike out. You'll be returning to the campground area, so be sure to look for the spur trail that crosses the creek and heads back to where you parked -- otherwise you will wind up on the Big Creek Nature Trail. It's only another 0.8 miles, if you're still looking to walk around. Otherwise, hang a right and hike 0.1 miles back to the parking area.