This ride includes some of the more technically challenging terrain in the South Mills River area. It includes all of Squirrel Gap Trail (#147), the infamous hike-a-bike over Black Mountain with spectacular viewpoints, and it finishes with the high-speed technical descent down Turkeypen Gap Trail (#322)
Be sure to bring enough water and food. Arrive as early as possible during warmer months as the parking lot fills up quickly. Do NOT park in the area reserved for horse trailers. If the parking lot is full, you can park at the intersection of Turkeypen Gap Road and Highway 280 and ride up the road to the trailhead.
This ride is one of the more difficult loops that can be created using trails in the South Mills River area!
Expect this ride to take five or more hours. While only about 25 miles, you'll total over 4,500 feet of climbing elevation. There will be a few sections where you must hike your bike up the ascents, notably on Black Mountain.
The ride begins from the Turkeypen Gap Trailhead parking lot and climbs up the short stairs at the start of the Vineyard Gap Trail (#324)
. Keep climbing Vineyard Gap for approximately 1.5 miles and then descend the 800 feet for the last half-mile while enjoying some classic Pisgah gnar through a tight rhododendron tunnel.
Once at the river, wade across to Riverside Trail (#115)
and head right. This section of trail intersections can be confusing. While maps show only one intersection, there appear to be two with a marker missing from the first one. Just stay right each time and you'll be headed in the proper direction.
Continue on Riverside for approximately one mile and it will end at Bradley Creek Trail (#351)
. Follow the Bradley Creek Trail (#351)
left for about 0.5 mile and it will intersect with the beginning of Squirrel Gap Trail (#147). You'll ride Squirrel Gap Trail (#147) entirely until it ends at South Mills River Trail (#133).
Continue straight/right onto South Mills River Trail (#133) and follow for about 2.5 miles. Turn left at the intersection with the Buckhorn Gap Trail (#103)
. Continue on Buckhorn Gap until it terminates at the intersection with Clawhammer Road
and Black Mountain Trail (#127)
. Enter Black Mountain Trail across Clawhammer Road
. This is where the hiking will begin.
You'll ascend upper Black Mountain Trail, climbing about 600 vertical feet in just under one mile. Several sections on this segment are not rideable and you'll need to carry/push your bike to the top. Your reward is some of the most spectacular viewpoints in all of Pisgah!
There are a few rocky outcrops you can rest at to take a break and take in the views. You'll cover approximately two miles of Black Mountain Trail until it intersects with Turkeypen Gap Trail (#322)
. Make a left and begin the hair-raising descent down Turkeypen Gap Trail. There are three steep sections that once again may require carrying/pushing your bike to the top. After the last climb, the drop back to the parking area is fast and steep.