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Trace Ridge & Spencer Branch


By:  Tom Thomas, President Back Country Horseman of Pisgah

Pisgah National ForestNorth Carolina



Here is my fourth trail information and update: Trace Ridge Length:  3.1 miles 5km one-way.  Spencer Branch Trail 4.3 miles, 7 km.  Total 7.4 miles, 12 km.




PARKING TRAILERS:  From Pisgah Ranger Station proceed 11/2 miles south on US 276 and NC 280.  Turn left on NC 280, keeping on NC 280 until it joins NC 191.  Turn left on NC 280/191 and continue for approx. 1 mile.  Watch for Forest Service signs for North Mills River Campground, turn left at sign.  There is a traffic light at this location.  Proceed about 5 miles to Forest Service Road #5000, a gravel road up hill to the right, just before reaching North Mills River Campground.  Turn right up #479 for approx. 3 miles watching for Hendersonville Reservoir Road, # 5000 to the left.  You will cross a concrete bridge as you bare left.  Take this road to the reservoir and parking area.

The parking is limited at this point.  Some trailers along the road and  across form the Wash Creek Fields and before the concrete bridge.

**    Large groups can lease the Wash Creek Campground for the weekend which will providing plenty of parking and camping space.  I believe it is $25 dollars a night, $75 for the weekend. Contact the Pisgah Ranger District at 877-3265.



START OF TRAIL: Trace Ridge Trail is a moderate climb with horses.  At the top of Trace Ridge, Spencer Branch Trail intersects.  If you miss the turn off of Spencer Branch Trail you will dead end at the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Turn around and look to your right as you go back down. Distance, about 600 yards.  If followed, Spencer Branch Trail gives you a wonderful loop ride.



START OF TRAIL:  Spencer Branch starts near the top of Trace Ridge Trail.  There is a sharp drop off of Trace Ridge onto Spencer Branch Trail.  The steepness does not last long but all riders need to be careful on this short section.  Spencer Branch goes down hill and crosses several small creeks then levels out and continues through a beautiful forest of hard woods, rhododendron and mountain laurels before crossing a gravel road.  (If you make a left on the gravel you will have an easy but dull ride back to the parking area.)  Spencer Branch crosses the gravel road and continues through a hemlock forest following a trout filled stream in what many describe as a forest wonderland. This trail continues through the forest and comes out on the Hendersonville Water Shed Road near the dam. (Distance about 3.4 miles).   Make a left on the gravel road and you have about 2.5 miles to the parking area.  Make a right and you go to the small Hendersonville watershed dam.  The stream that follows the road out is excellent for trout fishing.   No roses to smell but a trout stream where you should wet a line. 


TRACE RIDGE ATTRACTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS:  This is a fairly moderate trail with a moderate grade.  The trail climbs up a dry ridge through mixed hardwoods, mostly oak and hickory, with some reforestation of pitch pine and white pine.  The trail is not marked, so care must be exercised in finding it.  Also, no water is available along the trail.  Great views can be had in the fall and winter months and because Spencer Branch Trail intersects Trace Ridge at the close to the top of the trail a wonderful loop ride can be developed.  The first part of Spencer Branch Trail off of Trace Ridge is steep and should be take on carefully with horses.  The steepness only last a short time and the remainder of the Spencer Branch Trail is excellent.


SPENCER BRANCH ATTRACTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS:  Spencer Branch Trail has a steep down hill start form Trace Ridge Trail.  It quickly goes from steep to a gradual down hill grade.  This trail is lined with several small creeks and streams and has abundant wildlife.  Hardwoods, hemlocks, dogwoods, and many other species of flora and fauna can be experienced.  Steam crossing area easily forded.  There is a beaver pond just off of Spencer Branch and the pond is slowly but surely growing in size.  A beautiful natural event but could create stream crossing/ford changes in the very near future.  There are several wildlife opening on the left of Spencer Branch Trail.  This is a trail you should really enjoy.  ***Reminder:  This is a multi-use trail. (Bikers, hikers, fisherman, and equestrians)  SHARE THE TRAIL.