Trails in the Davidson River Trailhead Area

Here is a list of trails in the Davidson River Trailhead area. For more information and a map (where available), click the trail name.

Andy Cove Nature Tr.

Easy, 0.7mi, Few Hills, Some Obstacles

USGS/USFS Number: 288
National Recreation Trail; constructed by the Youth Conservation Corps. You'll find interpretive stations along the way. The trail rises on the hillside behind the Visitor Center and Ranger Station, and elevated walkways carry you over steep and marshy areas. There is one long, neat suspension bridge located about halfway around the loop.

Art Loeb Bypass

Easy, 0.7mi, Climbs Gently, Few Obstacles

Short and mostly level. Follows an old roadbed.

Art Loeb Section 1

More Difficult, 12.3mi, Level, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: White
Starting at the Davidson River Campground, the trail ascends Shut-in Ridge (not to be confused with the Shut-in Ridge near the French Broad River further north, where the long Shut-in Trail begins). It travels through Cat Gap, around the south side of Cedar Rock Mountain, and down into Gloucester Gap, marking the end of section 1.

Art Loeb Section 2

Difficult, 7.2mi

Blaze Color: White
Starting in Gloucester Gap, this section of the Art Loeb trail winds its way up the ridge extending east from Pilot Mountain before crossing over the summit. It dips down into Deep Gap and Farlow Gap before resuming its climb, up Shuck Ridge, where it crosses above 5000' in elevation. It crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, before reaching the summit of Silvermine Bald, where it joins with the Mountains to Sea Trail and levels out considerably. This section of trail finishes with a relatively level stretch thru a spruce-fir forest, ending at Black Balsam Road and a popular parking area.

Avery Creek

Moderate, 3.2mi, Climbs Moderately, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 327
Steep, rocky at northwest (upper) end. Passes through some logged areas. Passes a large waterfall, and through hemlock and rhododendron groves. Southeast end is a standard wet, creekside trail with log bridges. Can be used to make several looops in the vicinity.

Bennett Gap

Moderate, 2.9mi, Climbs Moderately, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Red
USGS/USFS Number: 138
Excellent ridgetop views of Looking Glass Rock, Cedar Rock, and the Davidson River valley. Mixed hardwoods on wide part of ridge and in gap. Dry pine-oak forests on narrow part of ridge. Cliff-top views on ridge. Sheer drop-offs right beside the trail near intersection with Perry Cove tr.

Biltmore Campus

Easy, 0.9mi

USGS/USFS Number: 006

Black Mountain

Most Difficult, 9.8mi, Climbs Steeply, Very Rough

Blaze Color: White
USGS/USFS Number: 127
This heavily-used trail features incredible views, hiking along a needle-sharp ridgeline, and lots of rock outcroppings and boulders. The trail itself is notable (unfortunately) for its heavily eroded sections. Either through erosion or work to repair it, which is ongoing, the trail is likely to change character as time goes on.

From the parking area just southeast of the Ranger Station on US 276, the trail begins on a gravel road and then veers left onto an old road bed ascending through Thrift Cove. Formerly lined with dark hemlocks, this cove features a tumbling stream and nice forest scenes filled with plenty of rhododendron.

The trail veers left again at the Thrift Cove trail intersection, becoming steeper as it climbs another old road bed. It crosses the creek a couple of times on ancient logging bridges, before pulling away from the creek to reach a switchback to the left. The trail ascends on a reroute that's in slightly better condition, and more like singletrack, up to the nose of the ridge, which it starts up directly. The forest here is mixed hardwoods.

The trail is highly eroded from here to the top of Hickory Knob - which is over 1400 ft. in elevation above the trailhead. It then descends about 240 ft. on a slightly less eroded stretch down to Pressley Gap and FS 5099 (Turkey Knob Rd.).

Continuing straight across the road, the trail ascends some steps and prepares to climb nearly 900 more feet over a heavily eroded stretch. The forest is typical of the ridglines in the area with mixed hardwoods and plenty of mountain laurel. Waterbars, roots, and a few rocks complete the seasoning of this stretch which is badly in need of repair. The difficulty tones down a bit past the Turkey Pen trail intersection as you move onto the top of the ridge and the shoulder of Black Mountain - the highpoint, at 4200 ft. elevation.

From here, the trail becomes less steep overall but has some ups and downs along the ridge. The trees are short and gnarled; the ridgeline between Black Mountain and Clawhammer Mountain is knife-sharp. This ridge divides the Davidson and Mills Rivers' watersheds. Great views open up in both directions, but especially to the southwest (a great place to stop for lunch). Past Clawhammer Mountain, the trail starts descending again over a rough course toward Buckhorn Gap. It switches back past a neat rock cave at one point. The descent to Buckhorn Gap is about 550 ft.

From Buckhorn Gap, the trail climbs again, starting on log stairs, past the Buckhorn Gap shelter and up Soapstone Ridge. The trail is less heavily traveled by this point. After cruising up and down along the summit ridge of Rich Mtn. for a stretch it descends to its end in Club Gap.

To the right is the Club Gap trail; straight is Buckwheat Knob trail; left is Avery Creek trail. These connections provide numerous loop options in either direction.

Formerly, the trail continued down what's now the Club Gap trail making it longer. I've seen the length of this trail listed anywhere from 9 to 16 miles, but my map data says more like 7 1/2. The 9.8mi value shown here is the official Forest Service number.

Bridges Camp Gap

Moderate, 1mi

Buckhorn Gap

More Difficult, 4.6mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 103
Several creek crossings on lower end. Log bridges. Cove hardwood/dense hemlock forests w/ some huge hemlocks. Intersects short spur to Twin Falls (highly recommended). Intersects Avery Creek trail. Trail has recently undergone extensive re-engineering and repairs. Beyond Twin Falls, trail is a sidehill climb on old roadbeds. Intersects & follows gravel roads to reach the Gap. Int. w/ Black Mountain trail at Buckhorn Gap.

Buck Spring

More Difficult, 6.2mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: White
USGS/USFS Number: 104
Travels first from the first switchback on US 276 above the Pink Beds to the Pisgah Inn. This is a gradual, pleasant climb that dips into coves & rounds the nose of many ridges with cove hardwoods in the coves and mixed hardwoods on the ridges. There are a few small stream crossings. Then travels to the Mount Pisgah parking area. This section is moderately steep and passes through the remnants of a Chestnut forest with some relatively large remaining specimens. Rest of forest is mixed high elevation hardwoods with a few hemlocks, spruces and firs. Also passes cliff-top views and the historic Buck Springs Lodge site with interpretive signs. Ends at the Mount Pisgah parking area, where you can continue on to the top of Mt. Pisgah itself or hike to Asheville via the Shut-in Trail.

Buckwheat Knob

Moderate, 1.5mi, Hilly, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 122
Ridgeline trail. Passes some enormous trees. Steep climbs; rocky sections. Passes through pleasant areas with lush grass growing underneath large hardwood trees.

Butter Gap

Moderate, 2.7mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 123
Scenic. Starts in Pickelsimer Fields; a flat, grassy area with crystal clear streams meandering through. Typical streamside trail further along. Trailside waterfall. Stiff climb up to Butter Gap; passes headwaters of the stream.

Caney Bottom

Moderate, 1.2mi, Climbs Moderately, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 361
Travels from the Cove Creek trail at Cove Creek Group Campground up Caney Bottom Creek to reconnect with Cove Creek trail near the headwaters. Makes an excellent loop when combined with the Cove Creek trail. Passes several small to medium-sized waterfalls. Climbs high up the hill above the creek in places. Some areas have tricky roots, rocks, wet areas, or stream sections. Some trail is built on old roadbeds while some is strictly new tread. Beautiful, rich woods with open, fern-filled sections.

Caney Bottom Extension

Easy, 0.7mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 340
Short; bypasses the Cove Creek Group Campground and is really the lower end of the Cove Creek trail.

Case Camp Ridge

Easy, 1.7mi, Level, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 119

Cat Gap Bypass

Easy, 0.4mi, Level, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 120A
Level or gradually climbing trail swings into coves & around ridges. Mixed hardwood forest w/ some hemlocks & pines. Pleasant walk. Cuts off climb up to Cat Gap from the Cat Gap Loop. Int. w/ John Rock trail.

Cat Gap Loop

Moderate, 4.4mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 120
Nice loop starts and ends at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education & Fish Hatchery. Described CCW. Loops around John Rock. Varied trail; forests range from cove hardwoods, to former groves of hemlocks (now dead), white pine plantations, and mixed hardwoods in higher elevations. Passes a nice waterfall near a large campsite on Cedar Rock Creek. There are several plank & log bridges. Passes Picklesimer Fields on the right at the intersection with the Butter Gap trail. Embarks on a moderate climb up the ridge to the intersection with the spur loop to top of John Rock. A steep descent to Horse Cove follows, then you reach the other end of the John Rock trail, then commence a level walk along the Davidson River. See also the John Rock Best Hike, which uses portions of this trail.

Cemetery Loop

Easy, 1.2mi, Some Hills, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 341
Follows an old road past an old cemetery on a little plateau near the Davidson River. Lots of white pines & hemlocks, & mountain laurel groves. Pleasant little loop.

Clawhammer Cove

Moderate, 1.5mi

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 342
This is a pleasant hike that begins in a small meadow before climbing gently up Clawhammer Cove. There are some nice cascades that can be seen from the trail. Shortly after crossing the creek, the trail follows an old road up the shoulder of a ridge. For an interesting side trip, continue upstream a short way to a small waterfall. After the trail leaves the creek, the grade becomes steeper, passing through hardwood forests and crossing several wet areas. The trail ends on Clawhammer Road (FS 5058), which is a gated logging road open to hiking, biking, and equestrian use. If you turn right on the logging road, it is 2 miles back to Avery Creek Road (FS 477), where a right turn and an additional ΒΌ mile hike will return you to the to the Avery Creek trailhead.

Club Gap

Moderate, 0.8mi

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 343

Coontree Loop

Moderate, 3.7mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 144
Pleaseant loop; travel in either direction. Nothing spectacular, just typical creekside, mountainside and ridgetop landscape. Loop travels up one nondescript cove and down another. Joins with Bennet Gap trail for portion along the ridge. Mostly hemlock/cove hardwood forests near the bottom, mostly oak forest near the top with plenty of mountain laurel groves.

Cove Creek

Moderate, 2.6mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 340
From Caney Bottom trail, climbs past Cove Creek Falls on an old road bed, through rich forests far above the stream, to flat areas near the headwaters and then up to Forest Service Road 225B. Unfortunately there is no good connector from the trail to Cove Creek Falls. This is a disgrace! You'll have to take an eroded, rocky, unsigned side path to get there but it is well worth it. Has some log bridges; beautiful forest and stream scenes. Makes a nice loop with the Caney Bottom trail to the east.

Daniel Ridge Loop

Moderate, 4mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Red
USGS/USFS Number: 105
Fantastic loop trail. The naming of this one appears to be kind of a flub as it's not anywhere near Daniel Ridge itself; instead, the trail is on a spur of Lanning Ridge. And it also appears the Forest Service may be renaming the lower part of this trail to Farlow Gap based on their latest trail data. Described here clockwise, it can be hiked either direction.

Follows an old roadbed upstream to start. Passes an old fish hatchery and ruins of an old bridge. Trail narrows as it climbs Right Fork; clings to steep hillside. Straight poplars grow in a cove hardwood forest here. At the intersection with the Farlow Gap trail at a set of steps, turn right. Begins moderate climb through smaller mixed hardwoods and pleasant open forests. It crests the ridge, then starts descending through logged areas, somewhat steeply at times. Then travels through a somewhat more level valley in a forest of hemlocks, rhododendrons, and twisted Mountain Laurel, arching over the trail at times. Here there are creek crossings on plank & log bridges. The trail passes the top of Toms Spring Falls (Daniel Ridge Falls) and then goes around a large switchback near the end. Turn left at the intersection with gravel Lanning Ridge Road to reach the base of falls after a few feet. Turn right to close the loop.

Davidson River

Easy, 1.1mi, Climbs Gently, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 650
Follows old FR 475. The road has been re-routed further uphill now. Level or gentle climbs, gravel surface. Davidson River is in scenic small gorge below this road at this point. Several landslides in September of 2004 sent parts of this trail sliding 100' into the river below.

Estatoe

Easy, 0.7mi, Climbs Gently, Few Obstacles

New easy trail follows the Davidson River up from the Lowe's in Brevard to the Davidson River Campground, connecting to the city of Brevard's greenway system. Easy, nearly level trail with some nice riverside scenery. Passes a large rock cliff at one point. It has an expensive, packed/crushed gravel surface with lots of bridge structures over wet areas. Should even be accessible even to small wheels - strollers, etc. - and maybe even wheelchairs, if the wheels are big enough. (Some of the bridges might present a challenge though and I'm not sure if the small inclines would technically allow it to be called "accessible").

Exercise Trail

Easy, 1.5mi, Climbs Gently, Few Obstacles

USGS/USFS Number: 344

Farlow Gap

Most Difficult, , Climbs Steeply, Moderately Rough

Forest Festival

Easy, 1mi

USGS/USFS Number: 319

Grassy Road

Easy, 1mi

Blaze Color: Orange

John Rock

Moderate, 1.8mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
Steep and rocky near upper intersection w/ Cat Gap. Travels over wide ridgeline to face of John Rock; spectacular view of Looking Glass Rock & the Pisgah Ridge near the Black Balsam Mountain area. Travels through flat areas & steep coves near lower intersection with Cat Gap. Mixed hardwood forests.

Long Branch

Moderate, 2.5mi, Hilly, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 116
Interesting trail travels through some flat streamside areas near upper end & also up and over low ridges. Some muddy sections near upper end have been reinforced with puncheon and/or rock & gravel causeways. Travels through some dense stands of mountain laurel. Most stream crossings are not bridged.

Looking Glass Rock

Moderate, 3.1mi, Climbs Steeply, Somewhat Rough

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 114
A classic Pisgah trail. Travels first through small cove, then steeply up the back side of Looking Glass Rock through many switchbacks. Mixed cove hardwood, hardwood, and pine-oak forests. Some areas of rare Carolina hemlocks. Rock slabs. End of trail is at top of cliffs; use extreme caution (however rock at edge of forest is nearly level; watch out for moss & wet rock). Incredible views of Pisgah Ridge from Mt. Pisgah toward the Shining Rock/Black Balsam Mtn. Area & valleys below. Highly recommended.

Moore Cove

Easy, 0.7mi, Climbs Gently, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
Travels beside a scenic stream to 70' free-falling Moore Cove Falls. Beautiful open cove hardwood forest with fern gardens. Several plank bridges & log causeways over wet areas. Rock outcroppings. This trail makes an excellent hike for families, and even small children can make it to the falls.

North Slope

Moderate, 3.7mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

USGS/USFS Number: 359
Loop starts and ends in the Davidson River campground. Described CCW. Follows Davidson River, then steepens & follows smaller stream up through cove. Hemlock groves near lower end. Levels at top; becomes sidehill; dips into coves & out around ridges. Interesting bridge over deep gully. Mostly mixed hardwood forest; Mt. Laurel/Rhododendron tunnels. Descends moderately to amphitheater again at campground. A must-hike if you're staying at the campground.

Perry Cove

Easy, 1.2mi, Level, Few Obstacles

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 151

Pink Beds Loop

Moderate, 5mi, Few Hills, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 118
An excellent loop which travels around the bottom of a unique valley. This is the "Cradle of Forestry in America", where modern forestry techniques were first developed, taught & practiced. Trail is mostly level with a few small hills on north side of loop. Many bridged stream crossings & boardwalks over boggy areas on south side of loop. Mixed forest; lots of very large White Pines & (dying) Hemlocks. Rest of forest is oaks & cove hardwoods. Unique beaver dams near outer portion of loop; trail was previously flooded by them but boardwalks and a bypass were completed in early 2013 so you can hike the whole loop and stay dry. Dying forest in this area due to flooding; interesting transition. Very large fern gardens & open woods near outer end of loop. Rhododendron & Mtn. Laurel tunnels on N. Side. Near parking area, pass through wildlife fields. Mountains to Sea Trail cuts across center of loop, for possible shorter loop.

Pressley Cove

Difficult, 1.1mi, Climbs Steeply, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 112
Traveling through a nice cove, the trail climbs steeply along much of its length. It's in good shape for the most part. It crosses the stream twice on log bridges; the lower one is in bad condition so use caution. There are some small cascades when the creek water is up, adding to the charm, but nothing to constitute a destination by itself. The terrain features some neat layered rocks in some of the steeper sections.

Seniard Ridge

More Difficult, 3.93mi, Climbs Steeply, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 609

Slick Rock Falls

Moderate, 0.7mi, Climbs Moderately, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Yellow
Very short path climbs moderately steeply up to small falls. Continues uphill to base of Looking Glass Rock. Stay away from very slippery rocks near top of falls. Animals frequently slide down this rock and over the falls to their deaths.

Sunwall

Moderate, 0.4mi

Blaze Color: Yellow

Sycamore Cove

Moderate, 3.2mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Blue
USGS/USFS Number: 143
Travels up & down through coves near small streams; cove hardwood forests. In between, travels sidehill near the top of the ridge w/ a mixed hardwood forest.

Thrift Cove

Easy, 3.8mi

Blaze Color: Red
USGS/USFS Number: 603

Twin Falls

Easy, 0.4mi, Some Hills, Some Obstacles

Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 604
Short trail travels through cove hardwood forests to Twin Falls. Logging railroad remnants. Highly recommended.

Wagon Road Gap

More Difficult, 0.7mi, Climbs Steeply, Moderately Rough

Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 134
Climbs from the Mills River up to Wagon Road Gap on the Turkey Pen Gap trail through a pleasant cove forest. It enables the only (day hike) loop from the Turkeypen trailhead parking using the Turkey Pen Gap trail.

The bottom-most portion passes through what was once a dense, dark, open hemlock grove, now mostly dead. Shortly up from this is a muddy, wide crossing of the main tributary branch, where it's difficult to keep your feet dry despite the stream's small size. Another side tributary has a small log bridge, but it is slippery, moss-covered, rotten, and about ready to collapse. Further up, the forest is mostly hardwoods with some large, straight Tuliptrees. Hemlocks, which were slowly making inroads against the hardwoods in the cove, become less prominent further up in elevation, and are mostly dead as well - although a few looked inexplicably healthy on my last hike. The trail is somewhat faint but still obvious as it climbs straight up the fall line and directly into the drainage of the diminishing stream, before reaching the gap.