Explore the most popular trails near Mills River with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.


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Mills River, North Carolina Map

nice trail, a bit muddy, and watch the manure

this was a good basic hike that was very enjoyable. It had some steep sections but overall was very well-maintained and extremely easy-to-follow although not easy to hike always.
The trail marker for this hike calls it a moderate not an easy
I also posted a photo of the trail marker, I have never seen a martini glass on a trail marker before in my life

There’s no trail. Just a road.

Again, all trails mileage description is WAY off. The actual mileage for this loop from Turkey Pen gap to wagon to South Mills River was 11.86 miles. The two swinging bridges were fun to cross and there weren’t any incidents of wet feet during this hike. Road going up to the parking lot was in good condition there were not any views though perhaps there will be more once the foliage is down. Next time I will bring a bathing suit though because there are certainly a lot of places where it would’ve been easy to swim in the river on the way back to the car. Note: you will see mountain bikers on this trail.

Easy. Typical mountain trail. Secluded river arena. No exceptional vistas.

Not super hard, but if you are 50 like me you need to be in shape. I did it without issue. I have seen many average cars on the road in and they don’t have issues with it, but if you only have 3 or 4 inches of clearance don’t try the drive in.

2 months ago

Nice hike, my GPS recorded it as 8.26 miles from the trail head. Yes you Ford the river a lot, and the crossings are close together at times. Wear shoes that drain and dry quickly, forget about wearing socks unless you are willing to take them off and put them on 22 times or just wear them wet for 8 miles. Several crossings were calf deep, many were just over knee deep and one was panty deep (suddenly) but the cool down was welcomed at that point. Ps I am 6’2” tall with lots of legs, shorter people beware.

Hiked today. First third fairly rigorous. Uphill most of the way. Views would be nice in the fall/winter. Second two thirds very lush. Downhill most of the way and runs beside the river so, plenty of water for the dogs. If you have any.

nice hike. no good views. went right to start up trace ridge finished on fletcher creek and reservoir road to get 8.5 miles. not to difficult but rough and rocky

Love the river!! Beautiful park for the family and dogs too!

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

5 months ago


Trail was covered in horse scat and flies plus the trail was heavily trafficked but... it was a beautiful place and we really enjoyed the beautiful south fork mills river.

The first 2.5 miles are extremely strenuous with nearly straight uphill portions then downhill. You can cut over on wagon gap trail then come down south mills river trail to make the second half of the hike very easy. Low traffic though we did run into a horse drawn wagon on the way back!

Have walked sections of this area while living in WNC.

9 months ago

Have hiked sections of the trail at different tomes of the year. It is especially beautiful during the fall.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fairly gentle, well maintained out & back with several (8-10) crossings through less than knee deep water (wear appropriate footwear). Parking @ trailhead just past N. Mills River campground across road from century+ old restored home. IN section ends at service road for reservoir and half mile further up road leads to reservoir spillway and trailhead for Big Creek trail. Can hike out on service road (SR 5000), coming out just before MR campground or return to trail to reverse hike out on trail. Plenty of river side camp sites.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This is someone's driveway, then a main road. NOT a trail.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The first few miles were extremely muddy, making any type of running difficult. Make sure you wear waterproof boots. The Wagon Road Gap trail was a peaceful walk through the woods, getting a bit strenuous near the end. The last couple miles were a tad annoying. I could have knit a spider silk sweater from all of the webs I walked through. Saw a black bear running away into the woods. I did enjoy the two suspension bridges. I think this would have been more enjoyable biking. It will also help if you have a 4x4 vehicle, as the road up is a bit rough.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Be sure to bring extra hiking shoes and socks! Most of the bridges are washed out! Also download the map from pro before heading out because the trail is not marked and very overrun. Be ready for an all out hike with many challenges including wading rushing water.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Not well marked but nice trail

Saturday, April 15, 2017

This is a road. Not a trail.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Well marked trail, lightly traveled. Looks fun for horse back riding. No vistas.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The ~ 1 mile road into the trailhead is extremely rough, so if you have a low clearance vehicle, be advised that you'll need to be extremely careful. It's also a very tight single lane with virtually no place to turn around or move right or left if there's oncoming traffic. That makes it difficult if it's a vehicle with a horse trailer. There's also a water crossing on the trail, so be prepared to get your feet wet. FYI

Sunday, February 12, 2017

If we had stayed on riverside the whole way, we would have crossed the river 11 times and these crossings don't have bridges so I wouldn't recommend hiking them but on horseback or maybe biking would be fine.

mountain biking
Saturday, February 04, 2017

Has a great range from fast pace down hill riding to slow long gentle slopes. Also great views

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Pretty tough at the beginning but quickly levels out and is mostly flat. Enjoyable but no overlooks or anything spectacular.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Hiked. I found it to be very difficult. There is supposed to have been an intersecting trail so I could get back. I never found it. I will hike it again.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Great trail that borders the S Mills . there are parts that are strenuous but worth it. Trail contains great creek side camp sites. Good trout fishing on S. Mills also.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Great Hike, First 2 miles is rough but worth it. Great camping spot at the north end of Wagon Road trail.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trails were not properly marked.

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