We recently hiked Cove Creek Loop trail and visited Cove Creek falls. This is a really nice remote trail that takes you through some beautiful deep forest, in Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard NC.
Roundtrip Distance: 4.2 miles roundtrip
Handicap Accessible: No
Dog Friendly: Yes
Features: Waterfalls, Forest, creeks, wood bridges, group campground
Directions:From The Blue Ridge Parkway, take the NC Highway 276 exit and head towards Brevard. Just after passing the Looking Glass Falls area, turn right onto National Forest Road 475 (there will be signs for the Pisgah Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery). Coming from the Parkway, it’s a very sharp right turn. Pass the Wildlife Center and fish hatchery (on your left). Just before the road turns to gravel, you’ll see the sign for Cove Creek Group Camping. Park here. If the lot is full, you can continue across the bridge and down the gravel road a little further where there is additional parking on the left.
Recommended Gear: Standard Day hiking essentials, Pisgah National Forest Ranger District Trail Map
Cove Creek Loop Trail, Pisgah National Forest
Cove Creek Loop Trail starts just across from the parking lot on the other side of the red gate. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the Cove Creek Group Camp sign on the left and the large bulletin board on the right.
The first portion of the trail is a gravel access road road that leads through two different large group camping areas.
Follow the gravel access road to the group camping area. Along the way, the road will ford the creek twice, just prior to the creek crossing, if you look to the sides you’ll see small trails that lead to nice foot bridges that allow you to keep your feet dry.
The first footbridge is to the right, the second to the left. You’ll see people camping, hiking and fishing in this area. The road inclines gently and provides for a relaxing and easy stroll through the woods, with the sounds of the creek rushing beside you.
As the road leaves the first group campsite clearing, and enters the woods again, to your right is a small waterfall area that also serves as a small sliding rock and shallow swimming hole.
The road ends in the second clearing. This guide isn’t going to take you along the normal trail most hikers and guides follow, but along an alternate and “unofficial” trail to the falls. The unofficial trail takes you alongside the right side of stream rather the left side. Trust us, but we’ll explain why below. The unofficial trail is just as accessible as the official trail and easy to follow.
As you walk up the road, you’ll see the trailhead for the blue blazed Caney Bottom Trail, skip this and just keep walking on the road.
The trailhead you want is to the left of the pit toilet on the far end of the clearing. Just walk through the grass towards the toilet building and you’ll see the trail to the left.
The trail follows along side the creek for a bit until you come to a bridge on your left for the Caney Bottom Trail, don’t cross the bridge but continue straight onto the unofficial trail and follow it to the waterfall. This portion of the trail gets a little steep, but it’s only for a very short time.
Cove Creek Falls
Very soon you’ll hear the sounds of Cove Creek Falls, and then see it through the trees. The trail will bring you out on the right side of the falls, where you have the best view and a nice comfortable fallen tree to sit on.
The official trail brings you out on the opposite side of the creek, and due to a large rock outcropping, seeing the waterfall is difficult, and requires you to cross over the creek (to where you are now standing) for the best view. While using the trail we took will still require you to cross the creek, you won’t have to do it twice like you would on the normal trail.
For more photos and detailed information, see our Guide to Cove Creek Falls.
Cove Creek Trail
Once across the creek, head along the trail until it forks. Go to the right and up. The trail to the left and down is the access trail most people use to come to the falls.
Continue going up. The trail will fork a few times, but they all lead to intersect with the same trail, the yellow blazed Cove Creek Trail. This is the most difficult part of the hike, and very steep, but it’s short, so hang in there. To your right you’ll notice a few smaller access trails to the top of the falls that offer some nice views. Just be careful, it’s a long drop.
We took a few breaks, and then a longer break once we reached the yellow blazed Cove Creek Trail. Whew! Good news though, the rest of the trail is easy!
Cove Creek Trail follows an old logging road through some deep woods full of hardwoods and dead hemlocks (always makes me sad). The creek below and to your right makes some great background sounds.
The trail is easy to follow, wide and clear. You’ll cross a few old log bridges, that were a bit rough but functional. We hiked the trail in late May, and many parts of it were surrounded by Mountain Laurel, which smelled and looked wonderful.
As you approach the intersection of Caney Bottom Trail, you’ll notice the landscape changes to become flatter and more open. The forest floor is often covered with beautiful green fern. During our entire hike, we didn’t really see any wildlife other than a few frogs, salamanders and lots of snails. But near the end of Cove Creek Trail, we did hear some wild hogs up in the woods. They never came near us and we didn’t see them, but we definitely heard them, and saw signs of them where they had been digging in the ground. Not uncommon at all for any area of the Blue Ridge.
After you cross a nice bridge, the trail will fork. A smaller trail will head uphill and to the left, and other trail to the right. Go to the right, this is the blue blazed Caney Bottom Trail. We chose to take a break here. We sat down, rested and ate some snacks. While eating, two mountain bikers came through, the first people we had seen along the trail other than us. We saw two more mountain bikers coming up Caney Bottom Trail a little further down.
Caney Bottom Trail
We then headed down the blue blazed Caney Bottom Trail. The whole trail is downhill, sometimes fairly steeply towards the end. You’ll notice as you hike, the trail landscape again changes to a more heavily vegetated area, that is more damp, moist and even a bit muddy in places. This trail is a mountain biking trail, so keep an eye out.
After a bit, Cove Creek Trail will split off to the left, and Caney Bottom Trail will continue to the right. Go right. Now the trail changes a lot, as it becomes much more narrow, and far more heavily vegetated. In fact, the undergrowth here will tickle your legs as you walk along through it. Watch your step.
You’ll eventually walk along side a strong running creek, with a number of small cascades, and finally a much larger cascade – the largest on this trail. Shortly after passing the large cascade and passing a small campsite on the left the trail will fork at a tree with two blue blazes. You’ll want to go left here and follow this short trail out to the group camping clearing where you’ll again access the gravel road and head back to the parking area. This is the end of the loop.
While not one of the best hikes we’ve been on, it was a very enjoyable hike. As photographers, we were a little disappointed in the photo opportunities. The waterfall of course provides numerous photo opportunities. Other portions of the trail go alongside creeks and streams, but accessing the water close enough to get good photos is near impossible in many locations due to steep inclines or heavy undergrowth.
But, with this said, it’s a good hiking trail with gorgeous heavy woods scenery. The trail is also a little off the beaten path, so you won’t see a lot of people, which we like. Definitely a good trail that we would recommend for hiking. But if you are hiking it to get some great photos, we would recommend just visiting the waterfall, and skipping the loop trail.
Here are some more photos we took: