River Loop Trail

At A Glance


3.1 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 3.1
Steepness: Few Hills
Tread Condition: Some Obstacles
Blaze Color: Yellow
Trail Number: 200


Described here starting at the hiker parking area at Black Mountain Campground on S. Toe River Road and looping clockwise.

The trail ascends behind the sign boards on a path shared with the Green Knob and Mountains to Sea Trail through a former hemlock grove at the north end of Cove Ridge. In this cove, and along the rest of this loop, most of the hemlocks have been killed by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. There are only a few hemlocks surviving here, but they're medium-sized so if they continue to thrive they'll be beautiful in a few years once the Adelgid damage falls away. Otherwise, the cove is beautiful and filled with small trees (many of them birches) and ferns.

The trail bends east to a junction at a rocky spot. The Mountains to Sea Trail continues straight, while the River Loop and Green Knob switch back to the right on a side-hill course now heading west. In a few yards, the Green Knob trail splits to the left leaving the path occupied by only the River Loop trail as it moves through a wet area and toward the nose of a ridge. There are some enormous trees growing here; one notable oak in particular is located right next to the trail.

The trail rounds the ridge and turns to a southwesterly direction on the east side of the river as it passes through more lush forest scenes. It rises slightly to a partial view (better in winter) of the Black Mountains range and Mt. Mitchell to the west. You can get a sense of how high the ridge towers over the river valley from this vantage point, even if you can't see the summit itself.

The trail picks up old logging roads in places, where it gets wider, as it undulates up and down some. The trail swings back to the north around a wildlife clearing with some more partial views before a last leg on an old logging road where it makes a sharp turn to meet up with S. Toe River Road. Turn left and cross the river on the concrete bridge.

The trail leaves the road to the right on the other side of the bridge and picks up another series of old logging roads as it heads back toward the campground on the west side of the river, heading northeast. You'll cross a tributary, Camp Creek, on stepping stones and a smaller tributary draining Higgins Bald beyond that. The trail rises above the river some in places and is generally lush and pleasant. At the bottom of Flynn Ridge, you'll make a short descent to the riverside and arrive back at Briar Bottom Group Campground.

Continue straight on the Briar Bottom trail through the campgrounds, past the Setrock Creek Falls and Mount Mitchell trail junctions, to the main Black Mountain Campground Road. The parking area is just ahead at the campground entrance, to the right and across the bridge.

Intersecting Trails

  • Briar Bottom
  • Green Knob
  • Mountains to Sea Section 4
  • This trail is located in the Black Mountains & Toe River area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Black Mountains & Toe River trails list page.

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    Trail Segments

    Trails are often made up of several connecting paths which may have different characteristics, allowed uses, and seasons. This trail is divided into multiple segments as follows:

    Green Ridge - River Loop - MST

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 0.29 mi

    River Loop

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 2.55 mi

    Green Ridge - River Loop

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 481 ft

    Total Calculated Length: 2.93 mi

    This value is derived from our underlying map data, and it may not match officially published information.



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