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Squirrel Gap

SQUIRREL GAP TRAIL

By:  Tom Thomas - Trail Boss, Pisgah Trailblazers

Pisgah National ForestNorth Carolina

July 15, 2003

 

Here is my fifth trail information and update:  Squirrel Gap Trail Length:  7.6 miles/ 12km one way

RECOMMENDED SEASON:  YEAR ROUND

SPECIAL NOTE:  (At this time, the center portion of Squirrel Gap Trail is closed to multi-use which includes horses.  This closed section of Squirrel Gap Trail, is the Pisgah Trailblazers main project trail for 2003.)  We now have official approval from the Pisgah Ranger District to bring Squirrel Gap Trail back up to a level appropriate for multi-use. (For many, many years all of Squirrel Gap Trail was a horse trail but it was not maintained at an appropriate level for multi-trail use and became severally blocked with down timber, which stopped all traffic and allow erosion to damage the trail tread and therefore the center portion of Squirrel Gap Trail was closed to horse and bike travel several years ago.) Fortunately Squirrel Gap Trail links with Horse Cove Trail and Laurel Creek Trail to make loops trails outside of the area that is a presently closed to horse travel.

PARKING TRAILERS:  Horse trailers can be parked at the Turkey Pen Parking lot at 2600 feet, 780 meters in elevation. (There is no camping at the Turkey Pen Parking Lot!)  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, for a distance of approx. 1-¾ miles) where the horse trails begin.  The parking lot at the end of the gravel road has designated horse trailer parking and adequate space to turn a trailer.  Horse Trailers can be parked off and there is primitive camping off of Wolf Ford Road also know to many as the Gaging Station Road if you what to ride Squirrel Gap from that direction.

START OF TRAIL:  *** (I will give you a description of Squirrel Gap Trail as though it was completely open.  I will mention connecting trails that you will use until the upgrade work has been completed and approved by the Forest Service.)

 To get to Pea Gap and the NW start of Squirrel Gap Trail you must first get on Bradley Creek Trail and follow it appox. 3 miles. (You will get on Bradley Creek Trail at as you reach S. Mills River and you will bear to the right at this point.)  There is a trail sign marking both S. Mills River Trail and Bradley Creek Trail at this point.  You will bear right and follow the trail ajacent to the river for approx. ¼ mile and then cross the river at that point.  Stay on Bradley Creek Trail, which will bear right and continue up to Pea Gap and the beginning of Squirrel Gap Trail.  Squirrel Gap Trail starts at 2560 feet/Approx. 770 meters leaving Bradley Creek Trail.  It follows and old roadbed to the old Mullinax homestead site and small wild life opening.  You can see a pile of fieldstones still present where the old Mullinax home was located years ago.  At the old home site you will bear right and continue on Squirrel Gap Trail.  (Mullinax Trail goes to the left at that point) There is a trail sign at that junction.)  The trail will go through a stand of hemlock and climb gradually uphill and soon will become a side-slope trail, continuing through a hardwoods.  The trail is a winding trail and goes in and out of several hollers.  You will soon come to Laurel Creek Trail which bears to the right and loops back to Bradley Creek Trail about 3 miles ahead. (This is the trail you must take at this time.)

Squirrel Gap Trail continues on over Laurel Mountain, Laurel Gap, Pounding Mountain, and Squirrel Gap past the beginning of Cantrell Creek and over Horse Cove Gap all the way down to Wolf Ford and South Mills River Trail.

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, Diamond Brand in Fletcher, off of interstate 26 and Black Dome in Asheville.

               TRAIL ENDS:  Squirrel Gap Trail ends at Wolf Ford and South Mills River Trail.

               HORSE TRAILS THAT COME OFF OF SQUIRREL GAP TRAIL:  Bradley Creek Trail, Mullenax Trail, Laurel Creek Trail, Cantrell Creek Trail, Horse Cove Gap Trail and South Mills River Trail.  Funnel Top Mtn.Trail can be accessed if you ride up hill to the very end of Horse Cove Trail and follow the trail approx. ¾ of a mile. and turn left.  Funnel Top junctions with Horse Cove Trail at that point and creates another larger loop taking you back down to the Wolf Ford Rd (3.5 miles) and if you bear left on Wolf Ford Rd. you will connect with the beginning of South Mills River Trail and it will take you to Wolf Ford and the back side of Squirrel Gap Trail (Adding approx. 7.8 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.  There is even an area that has a 1and ½ inch steel cable hanging 100 feet up an old oak tree. (You can only wonder why and how somebody got that heavy cable up in the top of that tree.) Some of the old telegraph insulators deeply imbedded in some trees can still be seen as you pass along the trail.   A variety of hardwoods and canopy types can be seen along the trail as it contours and in and out from northerly to southerly exposures.  Some portions are a pain to travel at this time because of the massive timber that is down across the trail. (This will be resolved in the near future.)  The trail is relatively easy to hike and ride because there are no major steep sections to contend with as there was in the past. There are many fine views along this trail, especially in the winter.  Because of the many varieties of vegetation types and levelness of the trail it is a joy to ride as it winds its way through the upper hardwood coves and hollars and passes through numerous gaps.  You can expect to pass through large stands of Red Oak, Chestnut Oak, Maple, Poplar, Locust, Magnolia, and Hemlocks on the northern exposures.  On the southern exposures there are stands of Chestnut Oaks, Black Gum, Scarlet Oaks, and Hickory trees with some dense thickets of laurel and rhododendron.  Numerous streams cross the trail and there are several good areas for campsites.  Again, there are numerous loop possibilities using the Squirrel Gap Trail.  Mullinax Trail, Laurel Creek Trail, Horse Cove Gap Trail, Bradley Creek Trail, and South Mills River Trail all intersect with it.

 

Reminder:  Only that section of trail from Laurel Creek Trail to Pea Gap on one end and Horse Cove Gap to Wolf Ford on the other end is open to horses at this time.

 

GOOD RIDING, WEAR A HELMET, CARRY A FIRST A KIT, PACK A LUNCH AND KEEP ALL FOUR HO0VES ON THE GROUND.  Tom

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