South Mills River Tour - Trail, MIlls River, Carolina

South Mills River Tour - Trail, MIlls River, Carolina


Very long and grueling ride with lots of primeveal singletrack and wet slimy rock gardens. 13 major water crossings. Only recommended in summer and early fall.


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[Aug 17, 2009]

A group of three of us rode this trail this past weekend - definitely a long day in the saddle. We started with a long, fast doubletrack downhill on Bradley Creek (FS 5015). At the bottom we picked up the singletrack and the first of about 20 stream / river crossings. The riding was really fun and fast until we got to South Mills River Trail. Once on South Mills the trail became pretty overgrown and muddy in places although not terribly so. After many, many more river crossing we finally made it back to open singletrack where we climbed back out to FS 476 and finally FS 1206. Our mileage came out to about 28 miles and I finished my 100oz camelback and a 24 water bottle.

Customer Service

We started the ride at the intersection of FS 1206 and FS 5015 (Bradley Creek) at the top of the hill. This made for a nice downhill to start the ride but it also meant a 3-4 mile uphill at the end.

If we did it again, we would probably start the ride lower on FS 1206 and ride uphill first and then enjoy a downhill to finish the ride.

[Aug 24, 2004]
Cross Country Rider

My son and I rode this on 08/03/04. We parked at the Slate Rock/Pilot Cove Trailhead on FS1206 and rode down Bradley Creek Trail past the Turkey Pen Trailhead and then west on South Mills River Trail to FS476. Bradley Creek Trail was AWESOME, I lost count of river crossing at 15 or 16, there must be at least 20 but the trail was great, kind of gently flowing down stream (back & forth over the stream) with a few ups and downs and rock gardens ect... There were also a couple of really cool open meadows that I kept expecting to see Bambi or a bear or something pop up in! Now after we rode over Pea Gap and started up South Mills river trail things changed drastically! I have to admit that it had been raining almost every day for a week and I would not recommend riding this trail east to west when it has been raining, unless you actually enjoy riding/trudging through about 7 or 8 miles of mudd! Being from Florida, where riding is usually better after it has been raining a few days, not NC!!! I began to eagerly anticipate the next river crossing so we could wash the mud out of our disc brakes, derailleurs, chainrings, shoes, ect... and 13 ? water crossings I think thats where I lost count on Bradley Creek! There's at least 30 on the trails we rode!(one was over my waist, and tried to take the bike downstream)Florida wimps you say? Can't ride in the mud? Ha! By the time we finally got to the ridgeline that takes you up out of the mud our chains had "chainsucked" 10 or 15 times cause of all the mud, the chain wanted to stay on the front ring and go around a second time. At about this time I ran out of water!(148oz) Luckily my son still had some - he drank all the Gatorade we brought! I was never so happy to see a FS road as I was when we got to FS 476! I sat down & waited for the young one to catch up, digging into my "hawg" wondering how I could have run out of water when wow there was still ICE!!! Crunching on the ice my son pulls up and we share the water and ice. I dig around in his "mule" and find a 5 month old giant SNICKERS BAR!!! Man a snickers bar has never tasted that good.(must'v been the aging process) I think there was about a 2 mile climb up 276 and 1206 to a glorious 4 mile 25 mph decent to the truck and water! 24.75 Heavenly/Hellious miles!!! But hey what goes up must come down and what goes thru mud gets dirty. Yeh, I'll do it again next year!!

Customer Service

Take 276 North West from 64 past the Cradle of Forestry to FS1206. Go east past FS 476 to Slate Rock/Pilot Cove trailhead on your left. The trailhead for Bradley Creek is down on the other side of the creek.

Similar Products Used:

Clawhammer, Buckwheat Knob, Black Mountain, All the trails at Dupont, Tsali.

[Jul 01, 2003]
Clark Wilkins

Here are very detailed directions because a lot of this trail is not

0.0 Start at Yellow Gap by gate that marks the beginning of
FS5015. With the gated road at your back, turn left down FS1206.
0.15 Laurel Mountain Trail begins on your right. Stay on FS1206.
0.45 Fire road on right.
1.50 FS1206 starts climbing.
1.90 Slate rock/Pilot Cove trailhead on right.
2.40 Road levels off
3.60 Slate Rock/Pilot Cove trailhead on right.
4.00 small bridge
4.55 small bridge
4.8 Pilot Rock trailhead on right
4.95 Fire road on left.
5.55 Turn left on FS476.
6.2 Fire road on left.
7.0 Go around gate onto South Mills River Trail (white blazes).
7.75 Trail breaks to left.
8.00 Trail to High Falls exits to the left. Go over the concrete
bridge to the right.
8.30 Beginning of rocky, technical ascent.
8.85 Turn right at the top.
8.95 Stay left around switchback. Buckhorn Gap Trail begins
straight ahead (orange blaze, open to bikes).
9.20 Stay right at the switchback
11.75 Cantrell Creek Trail (red blaze, open to bikes) begins to the
left. Head right and downhill.
11.85 Go over the suspension bridge and turn right. Squirrel Gap
Trail begins to the left (open to bikes, blue blaze). The trail is
mostly unmarked from here to mile 17.15. The trail is a bit
confusing here. Follow it through what looks like a camping area
and up the slope. It stays very close to the river.
12.0 Take the right fork. The left one connects back in at mile
13.4 but is harder to navigate.
12.05 Bear left. There is a horse crossing that enters from the
right which is accessible by turning right before the suspension
12.45 Water crossing #1 - cross right to left. Watch for slippery
rocks underfoot! After this crossing, be ready for many slippery
rock gardens and long mud bogs for the next 3.5 miles. Allow a
lot of time for this section.
12.90 Water crossing #2 - cross right to left.
13.40 A side tr enters from the right. Stay straight for water
crossing #3. There is a nice rock wall formation visible when you
cross the water here. Another one can be seen by taking the first
left after you get across the water. The main trail goes straight.
13.95 Water crossing #3 - cross right to left.
14.25 Campsite visible to the left.
14.50 Water crossing #4 - cross left to right.
15.73 Water crossing #5 - cross right to left.
15.90 The trail splits here. Stay straight.
16.0 The other leg of the trail cuts back in.
16.50 Water crossing #6 - cross left to right.
16.77 Water crossing #7 - cross right to left.
17.0 Short push climb section.
17.20 Cantrell Creek trail enters from the left (red blaze, open to
bikes). Bear to the right. The trail is mostly blazed from this point
17.25 The remains of the Cantrell Creek lodge are on your left.
17.40 Water crossing #8. (THIS IS AN APPROXIMATE DISTANCE).
17.55 Go over the suspension bridge and bear left. There are two
forks. Either one is OK - they rejoin shortly - but the right side
has less obstacles.
18.15 Wagon Gap Road starts on the right. Stay straight.
18.20 Water crossing #9. Stay right after the crossing.
18.30 Go over the suspension bridge.
19.30 Pounding Mill begins to the left. This trail is CLOSED to
20.65 Mullinax Trail (open to bikes) exits to the left. Stay straight.
20.85 Look for a right-hand switchback off the main trail as it
goes downhill. If you miss it, you'll see a water crossing shortly.
Take the turn and look for the bridge.
20.90 After the bridge, turn left onto Bradley Creek Trail (red
blazes). This is the end of South Mills River Trail. If you turn right,
the connector trail goes up to Turkey Pen Parking lot.
20.95 The horse crossing for the end of South Mills River Trail is
here to the left. An easier connecting trail to the Turkey Pen
parking lot is to the right. If you have a sag vehicle parked at
Turkey Pen, you want to get out here as the most difficult part of
the ride is ahead.
21.45 Water crossing #10 - cross right to left.
21.9 Riverside Trail exits to the right. Follow Bradley Creek to the
left up the steps. A brutal climb over Pea Gap begins here. You
might want to go on Riverside if you're tired. This is the hardest
climb of the day. Riverside re-enters at mile 23.1.
22.35 Top of brutal climb to Pea Gap.
22.50 Squirrel Gap Trail exits to the left (open to bikes, blue
blaze). The last time I went by (June 2003), there was no sign.
23.1 Riverside Trail exits to the right.
23.30 Water crossing #11.
23.70 Water crossing #12.
23.95 Water crossing #13.
24.05 An unmarked oad enters from the left as you enter the first
field. Stay straight.
24.35 Laurel Creek Trail (open to bikes) exits to the left in the
middle of the second big field.
24.45 Turn right on unmarked doubletrack fire road (FS5015) and
start a long, gradual climb out.
27.70 You finally get a long downhill section. (THIS IS AN
28.50 End of ride back at Yellow Gap.

Customer Service

Yellow Gap - FS476 - South Mills River Trail - Bradley Creek Trail
- FS5015

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