South Mills River Road

North Carolina

Elevation Gain5,422ft
Trailhead Elevation2,646ft
Elevation Min/Max2405/3301ft
Elevation Start/End2646/2646ft

South Mills River Road

South Mills River Road is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Transylvania County and Henderson County, North Carolina. It is 13.5 miles long and begins at 2,646 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 27.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 5,422 feet. Turkey Pen Gap and another parking and the WF-6 camp site are near the trailhead. This trail connects with the following: Wagon Road Gap, 103 Buckhorn Gap, 148 Cantrell Creek, Wolf Ford Road, 349 Pounding Mill, 147 Squirrel Gap, Mullinax Trail and South Fork Mills River Trail.

South Mills River Road Professional Reviews and Guides

"This hike begins as a rutted-up rocky path, but once you cross a suspension bridge over the river, it smooths out and leads you nearly due west alongside the river for most of the way.

Take advantage of the watering holes near the beginning, middle, and end of the hike. The South Fork of the Mills River is crystal clear. You’ll enjoy dangling your own feet in it as much as your dogs do."

"This is the longest ride in this book, so allow plenty of time. The multiple stream and river crossings take their toll, but the ride is guaranteed to keep you cool on a hot summer day!

Ride surface is 18.6 miles of single track and 5.3 miles of forest road. Highlights: Numerous stream and river crossings, rocky sections, mud bogs, swinging bridges, few hills, and a historic lodge site."

"We affectionately call this loop the Bataan Death Ride; it’s not especially fun, but it will test your mettle. Once fooled into believing it was a 3-hour cruise (yeah, I know, us and Gilligan), a crew of us spent the next 7 hours trying to escape from the forest’s clutches.

This is the kind of trail that can crush your will to live, so bring plenty of water and food, and most important, a good attitude. Smooth sections running along the river can lull you into an easy cruising frame of mind, then slap you down with some nasty rock/mudhole combinations. Then, after you’re already worn down, you get a brutally steep climb and a descent that’s just plain hateful. Plan to get very wet, as you’ve got to ford, ride, wade, or swim across the South Mills River no fewer than 14 times. Start the ride early or take a chance on spending a cold, wet night in the woods. Tread: 9.8 miles of singletrack; 9.4 miles of doubletrack."

"If you are looking to stretch your legs on a long hike, but at the same time are worried about Western North Carolina’s challenging terrain, then this is a great loop to build up your confidence and mileage. You will begin the hike gradually on a singletrack trail along Trace Ridge Trail. Just before reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway, the route descends southeast to meet with Spencer Branch. Past Spencer Branch you will turn left on a forest service road and follow the wide dirt path east. The forest service road travels between towering pine and poplar trees and provides an easy stretch of hiking back to the parking lot and trailhead."

South Mills River Road Reviews

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I love this hike!! Sure, there are a lot of river crossings after about 5 miles, but the scenery is excellent! If you're into backpacking, then you will find many wonderful spots to set up camp. I don't ofthen run into many people on this hike, especially the further I go in. It's also worth mentioning all the "off shoots" one can make along this hike. There must be at least 8 other trails that either start, cross or branch off from this trail. I almost always start at Turkey Pen Trailhead and just head on out, soon I'm going to get a couple friends and hike all the way through to the Pink Beds area near the Cradle of Forestry, make it a casual 2 night thru-hike, somewhere in there I'm told I'll run into "High Falls" a beautiful camping spot, waterfall and swimming hole. I can't wait!
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We went in on mountain bikes at Turkey Pen and rode upstream about 4 miles to Cantrell Creek Lodge site. We left our bikes there then backpacked upstream another 2 miles to set up a base camp. The first bridge is intact. The next 3 bridges are washed out from Hurricane Ivan of several years ago so you will get wet crossing the stream. We spent 2 days hiking and fishing. We only saw 2 other people and it was 4th of July weekend! If the trail had been in better shape I would have givent his trip 5 stars. It was in pretty rough shape above Cantrell Creek which is why we left the mountain bikes and went on foot. A more aggressive rider might have enjoyed the challenge but we did not want to get injured. Fishing was only fair. The scenery was gorgeous as the trail hugs the stream for the whole distance.
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One of the Best The Appalachian Trail(the whole trail) was also one of the best

South Mills River Road Photos

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Trail Information

Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah Ranger District; (828) 877-3265;
Local Contacts
DeLorme: North Carolina Atlas & Gazetteer, page 52, B6. National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #780 Pisgah Ranger District, E7, Trail #133.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018