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Horse Cove & Cantrell Creek


By:  Tom Thomas – President, Back Country Horseman of Pisgah

Pisgah National ForestNorth Carolina



Here is your seventh trail information and update:  Cantrell CK and Horse Cove Trail Length:  1.3 miles/ 2 km one way


PARKING TRAILERS:  Horse trailers can be parked at the Turkey Pen Parking lot at 2600 feet, 780 meters in elevation. (There is no camping at the Turkey Pen Parking Lot!)  This parking lot is at the Transylvania/Henderson County line off of state road 280.  From the Pisgah Ranger Station in Pisgah Forest on 276, proceed south toward Brevard on US 276 to the first stoplight – turn left on NC 280.  Follow NC 280 for five miles to the Henderson Transylvania county line.  Turn left on FS Rd. # 297 and follow Turkey Pen Road, (a one-lane dirt road with turnouts for passing, for a distance of approx. 1-¾ miles) where the horse trails begin.  The parking lot at the end of the gravel road has designated horse trailer parking and adequate space to turn a trailer. (The Turkey Pen parking lot expansion, which allows for turn around space and horse trailer parking, was one of the Trailblazers first major projects in conjunction with community members and the PFS.)

START OF TRAIL:  You can get to S. Mills River by going to the end of the parking lot and going down the gated logging road or trail to the left.  The left trail is a short route to S. Mills River. (If you take the short trail to the left, note the silt bars that we jointly put in place as a team effort with the Blue Ridge Bike Club and Carolina Hiking Club.) To get to Cantrell Creek Trail you must first get on South Mills Trail and follow it appox. 4.5 miles. You will cross the S. Mills River three times.   Before each river crossings is a footbridge for hikers and bikers.  There is a trail sign marking both S. Mills River Trail and Bradley Creek Trail at the first horse crossing.   About ¾ of a mile up S. Mills River trail you will see a sign for Mullinax Trail, at this point simply stay left.  Soon you will see a large wildlife field on your left hand side.  May folks use this area for camping.   Approximately 1 7/8 miles in on S.Mills River Trail you will see a sign for Poundinmill Trail on the right. (Poundingmill Trail is a foot travel only trail , 1 and ½ miles in length and connects SMR Trail with Squirrel Gap trail.) Moving on you will find another large wildlife field on the right and in about a mile you will be at the next river crossing.  Two miles for the second river crossing you will come to the site of the old Cantrell Creek Lodge where a rock chimney still stands tall.  This is the start of Cantrell Creek Trail.  If you stay straight on past the chimney and along Cantrell Creek you will be on Cantrell Creek Trail.  There is a trail sign here to point you in the right direction. Cantrell Creek Trail is about 1and 7/8 miles to the junction of Horse Cove Trail.  There is a very nice area for camping and plenty of water at this junction.   And a sign directing you up Horse Cove Trail.

(Cantrell Creek Trail is closed to horse travel from the junction of Horse Cove Trail to Squirrel Gap Trail.) Again, his trail was open to horse travel in the mid 1980’s.

*****Special note:  I especially recommend this trail for late may when the mountain laurel are in bloom.  It is one of the finest displays of the magnificent beauty of the flower laurel anywhere. 

               Horse Cove Trail is appox. 2.4  miles long and connects with Funnel Top Mountain Trail/Fire Road.  Taking Horse Cove Trail  1.1 miles you will pass over Squirrel Gap Trail which is open to horse to the  left but closed to horses (at this time) going to the right. Taking Funnel Top Mtn. Road or Squirrel Gap Trail, you can make a large loop and come back to the junction of  Horse Cove Trail and Squirrel Gap or connect with S. Mills River Trail and follow it back to the beginning of Cantrell Creek Trail. 

TRAIL MAPS:  Be smart and don’t leave without a Pisgah Forest Trail map.  This map can be acquired at Highlands Books in Brevard, the Pisgah Forest Ranger Station on 276, Diamond Brand in Fletcher, off of interstate 26 and Black Dome in Asheville.

               TRAIL ENDS:  Cantrell Creek Trail ends at Horse Cove Trail for Horses and Horse Cove Trail ends at the top of Funnel Top Mtn. Road/Trail.

ATTRACTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS: this trail is fairly steep as it moves up Horse Cove from Cantrell Creek Trail, which was used for logging many years ago.  A variety of hardwoods and conifers can be seen along the trail as it contours in and out from northern to southern hollars.  The trail is moderate to hike and ride.  There are several areas along this trail that a well worth seeing, especially in October when the leaves are in full color and the month of May when the laurel is in full bloom.  Cantrell Creek Trail and Horse Cove Trails are rather short but because they end at the intersection of Squirrel Gap Trail or Funnel Top Mtn. Trail/Road you have wonderful opportunities to extend your ride.   Continuing on Squirrel Gap Trail, you can expect to pass through large stands of Red Oak, Chestnut Oak, Maple, Poplar, Locust, Magnolia, and Hemlocks on the northern exposures.  On the southern exposures there are stands of Chestnut Oaks, Black Gum, Scarlet Oaks, and Hickory trees with some dense thickets of laurel and rhododendron.  Numerous streams cross the trail and there are several good areas for campsites.  Again, there are two loop possibilities using the Squirrel Gap Trail: Go left at the junction of Squirrel Gap Trail and SMR trail and follow the river. You should expect 12 river crossing and a 6 miles ride back to the chimney at the old site of the Cantrell Creek Lodge. OR you can make a right and go up hill from the junction of Squirrel Gap and SMR.  This section of SMR trail will take you 4 miles up to the gate at the far end of SMR trail.  At the 2.3 miles up SMR trail you will a trail sign for Buckhorn Gap trail.  After you reach the gate at the far end of SMR trail you will be on Wolf Ford Road.  Follow Wolf Ford Road about 7/8 of a mile to Funnel Top Mountain Road on the right.  This road is gated and the first one you will come to on the right side.  Making a right and following Funnel Top Mtn. Road/trail  3.5 miles, will take you back to far side of Horse Cove Trail.