There's a shelter on the Black Mountain Trail that you can use to make this an overnight bike-packing trip if you choose. Otherwise, this can be done in one shot if you've got the legs (and a shuttle!).
Starting at the base of the Laurel Mountain
trail, the path up to Pilot Rock
offers a mellow 7 mile push through a beautiful poplar forest with a rocky, somewhat technical climb. Once on Pilot Rock
, hold on as you begin an awesome, famous Pisgah descent that gets much more technical after the first half mile. Known for its sharp, rocky switchbacks, Pilot has a famous boulder garden as you pass through a beautiful stream crossing. Towards the bottom the trail gets a little more washed out and rooty.
As you get almost to the bottom, a doubletrack with a campsite will split off to the right while a wide singletrack connector goes to the left. Take this unmarked left and follow it through a meandering old logging road that will connect you with the Pilot Cove
trail after a steep and rooty climb. Take a right on Pilot Cove
and continue the climb until it spills out on an amazing granite slab with an awesome view. Back on the trail, you'll head down through a fun and fast downhill that will spill out on 1206.
Take a right on 1206 (Yellow Gap Road) and follow the gravel to a left turn at South Mills River Road toward the campground. Once you reach the gate, go around and continue on South Mills Trail. This will follow the river and eventually cross as you climb up towards five points (where Clawhammer Road
, Buckhorn Gap, and Black Mountain converge).
If you've chosen the bike-packing option, take Buckhorn Gap to five points and then take a right up a big set of stairs on the Black Mountain Trail. Shortly thereafter, you'll find the shelter.
Otherwise, turn back toward five points and follow the Black Mountain trail up the steep hike-a-bike to the rock outcropping where you'll find amazing views from the rocky peak of Clawhammer Mountain. Continue up to another rocky knob to Black Mountain with more hike-a-bike and then begin a legendary, technical descent.
The upper portion of the trail is extremely technical with brutally washed out areas and drops of all flavors. As you get closer to the bottom, the trail gets faster and less technical. One more short, but steep, climb awaits from Presley Gap. Then the final fast and fun downhill to the bottom where you'll cross Thrift Cove, then arrive at the parking area on 276.
Finish the ride at the Hub with a beer at the Pisgah Tavern!