Chapters‎ > ‎Pisgah‎ > ‎Tom's Trail Narratives‎ > ‎

S. Mills River Loop

SOUTH MILLS RIVER TRAIL LOOP

 

By:  Tom Thomas, President, Back Country Horseman of Pisgah

Pisgah National ForestNorth Carolina

1-11-2001

(TO MAKE THIS A LOOP, YOU WILL START ON S.MILLS RIVER TRAIL, GO UP SQUIRREL GAP TRAIL, DROP DOWN HORSE COVE TRAIL, TURN RIGHT ON CANTRELL CREEK TRAIL AND RETURN TO THE CHIMNEY SITE YOU PASSED EARLIER IN THE DAY.)

 

Here is my second trail information and update:  South Mills River Trail (Not to be confused with North Mills River Trail) Length:  12.3 miles 19km one way

RECOMMENDED SEASON:  YEAR ROUND with exception (The trail from the chimney to Wolf Ford should be avoided during the winter and periods of heavy rains because of ice and flooding.)

PARKING TRAILERS:  Horse trailers can be parked at the Turkey Pen Parking lot at 2600 feet, 780 meters in elevation.  This parking lot is at the Transylvania/Henderson County line off of state road 280.  From the Pisgah Ranger Station in Pisgah Forest on 276, proceed south toward Brevard on US 276 to the first stoplight – turn left on NC 280.  Follow NC 280 for five miles to the Henderson Transylvania county line.  Turn left on FS Rd. # 297 and follow Turkey Pen Road, a one-lane dirt road with turnouts for passing in a couple of areas, and a distance of approx. 1-¾ miles, where the trail begins.  The parking lot at the end of the gravel road has designated horse trailer parking and adequate space to turn a trailer. 

START OF TRAIL: The South Mills River Trail beings at the far end of the parking lot and follows the gated old logging road down to South Mills River and your first stream crossing. (Bradley Creek Trail follows S. Mills River to the right at this point.)  There is a trail sign marking both trails.  After you cross S. Mills River you will follow the trail approximately four miles and cross the river twice (there are foot bridges for hikers near horse fords) more finally arriving at the site of Vanderbilt’s old Cantrell Creek Hunting Lodge. The stone chimney from the hunting lodge still stands to mark its old location (the black forest lodge was taken apart and flown out in the 70’s. It is now located at the Cradle of Forestry). From the site of the chimney, you will ride up the trail about 40 yards where you will make a hard left, climb a ridge and come around a mountain that puts you back on S. Mills River Trail. From this point to Wolf Ford the trail crosses the river 13 times.  You will know you have arrived at Wolf Ford when you come upon your next hiker’s footbridge.  Go past the bridge about 100 yards and look for the Horse Ford sign to the right.  After you cross the Horse Ford just past the bridge you will be on Squirrel Gap Trail.  You will follow Squirrel Gap Trail up hill till you get to Horse Cove Trail.  There will be a trail sign at the crest of a hill.  You will go down hill on Horse Cove Trail to Cantrell Creek Trail, make a right and follow Cantrell Creek Trail back to the Chimney on South Mills River Trail. The whole loop is about 23.7 miles.  Don’t forget a big bag lunch and rain gear. 

TRAIL MAPS:  Be smart and don’t leave without a Pisgah Forest Trail map.  This map can be acquired at Highlands Books in Brevard, the Pisgah Forest Ranger Station on 276 or Diamond Brand in Fletcher on 25 and many other locations.

            TRAIL ENDS:  Loop back to Squirrel Gap Parking Lot.   (23.7 miles)

            HORSE TRAILS THAT COME OFF OF SMRT:  Bradley Creek Trail, Mullenax Trail, Cantrell Creek Trail, Squirrel Gap Trail, and Buckhorn Gap Trail.  Funnel Top Mtn. Trail can be accessed if you ride to the very end of SMRT and follow the gravel road #476 appox. A mile. And turn right.  Funnel Top junctions with Horse Cove Trail and creates another larger loop. (Add 9.3 miles to the overall ride.)

 

ATTRACTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS: this trail is fairly level as it follows the grade of an old railroad bed, which was used for logging many years ago.  Some of the old crossties can still be seen along with telegraph insulators deep imbedded in some trees.  Again, you will pass the past site of the Cantrell Creek Lodge, Which was build in 1903 under the supervision of Dr. Carl Schenck, founder of the first school of forestry in the United States.  The Cantrell Creek Lodge, which is of Black Forest design, was taken apart, and flown out by helicopter, and reconstructed in 1978 at the NC Discovery Center home of the Cradle of Forestry on 279 in Pisgah Forest and Transylvania County.  It is the last log cabin you see on the Cradle of Forestry walk. Again, the lodges original location can be determined by the fireplace and chimney still standing.

 

NARRATIVE:   The trail goes through second growth oak and tulip poplar with good sections through large stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron, which are spectacular in the spring.  This trail is also spectacular in the fall.  The entire length of South Mills River is excellent for fishing and has been designated as native water from Cantrell Creek north into the Pink Beds and as trophy water from Cantrell Creek South out of the forest.

            Some creek can be difficult at high water times. (Flooding)  Water is normally between ½ foot to 2 ½ feet.  This trail is a multi-use trail where you will see bikers, hikers, trout fisherman, and equestrians. If you stay on South Mills River Trail instead of crossing the river at the horse ford, you will end up following the old road grade out of the Wolf Ford area finally crossing a concrete bridge at Billy Branch – here the horse and foot trail intersect and continue to the old Gaging Station on the old road bed.   Some people park vehicles at Turkey Pen and vehicles a mile down the Gaging Station gravel road #476 so they only ride half the loop.  Not a good option but an option.

POINTS OF INTEREST:  High Falls (above Wolf Ford about ¼ mile.) and Copperas Rock (between the chimney at the old lodge site and Wolf Ford)

GOOD RIDING, WEAR A HELMET, PACK A LUNCH AND KEEP ALL FOUR HO0VES ON THE GROUND.  TOM

Comments