354 Trace Ridge and 600 Spencer Gap Loop

MODERATE 3 reviews
#90 of 147 trails in

354 Trace Ridge and 600 Spencer Gap Loop is a 6.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mills River, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
6.5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1292 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

hiking
1 month ago

See also: Coffee Pot Mountain Loop Trail for more reviews and recordings. The name of this trail in particular makes more sense, since it actually uses the trail names in the title. You are indeed walking around the base of coffee pot mountain though on the second half. Note that when facing the sign in the parking area with the enlarged maps and info, the trail head will be behind you. The trail head to the left of the sign (if you're looking at it) is also named Trace Ridge, but it takes you into a totally different area to the south, intersecting with Wash Creek Trail.
There are two paths for the Coffee Pot Mountain Loop: The way in, and the way out. The gravel road with the barrier gate will be the way you'll come out at the end, which is to the left if facing both paths. Take the path to the right that appears to go uphill. That's the way in for this particular route, unless you'd like to take it backwards of course.
The first 1/3 of the hike has all the incline, as shown on the elevation map. There are short spurts of technical, rocky, narrow areas that bring you up along Trace Ridge north toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. Note that I'm not an athlete, but have been getting in shape for hikes and the incline portion of this trail was a great workout. There were awesome level terrain zones to give breaks and breathers between the incline zones, which is why the trail is rated as moderate. Keep your shoes tight, because the rocks and terrain are loose in some spots. The trail in general on this northern trek is quite narrow indeed, surrounded by mountain laurel, and there were lots of spider webs (carry a stick and wave it in front lol).
The sign at the northern end that splits toward the Blue Ridge Parkway was clearly marked. We didn't go that route, but easy enough to navigate if you want to add a view to your hike. You can hear the parkway traffic in this area and as you head back south into the next part of the loop. This is where the route changes to Spencer Gap with yellow blazes. Traffic fades as you go down by the water. The descent as you head south is quite gradual and very enjoyable. Do not take the red blazes or the blue blazes unless you want to change up the route. Look at the map before you go and take one with you, because there are quite a few intersections. One intersection in particular was confusing when it came to a gravel road. Look across the road, and slightly to the right, the trail continues on south with yellow markings and a sign with Spencer on it (might say Spencer Gap or Spencer Branch).
There were many many water crossings, and after the first one I saw I walked barefoot for a few miles. Some crossings were definitely too deep for shoes or boots. I'll bring water shoes next time for sure. It was so great to cool off in the creek on a hot day. Made the hike so rewarding!
Anyway I know this was a long review, but I hope it helps someone. Walking along the creek was my favorite part of the trail, since it was filled with wonderful smells and sounds with refreshing breaks. :D

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Trail is moderate with only one technical point. Nice down hill flow on Eastern 1/3 of trail.

Monday, May 27, 2013