Cove Creek Trail (Downhill)
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Summary: A great introduction to riding in Pisgah, Cove is one of the longest "beginner" trails in Pisgah. The trail is mostly a mix of flowy sections and roots, but does have two or three notable sections that may pose a challenge for some riders. Works as a great opener for riding in the fish hatchery area.
Difficulty: Pisgah Beginner - Mostly either smooth, flowy singletrack or small batches of roots. There are several sections to be aware of that have drops or awkward segments, along with one minor (<2min) hike a bike section near the top.
Length/Elevation Change: 2.75 miles of downhill
Notable features: Bypassing the more technical entrance, the most difficult feature on the trail is at the top, a steep/awkward rolldown into a rock garden followed by a log bridge and hike a bike section, but it is easily identified and walked. Following that segment, there is one section with a small rolldown into a ditch, but it is similarly short and has several line choices.
This walkthrough starts at the gate off Cove Creek Rd, if you want to know the best way to get there, then you can see our walkthrough on the Headwaters Rd/Cove Creek Rd climb. We will not be covering the alternate, technical entrance here.
As with many trails in Pisgah, you can expect the top of the trail to be more difficult, so the first mile or so will take up most of this guide, covering the most difficult sections at the top, after which the trail opens up and becomes much flowier and easier. Assuming you are starting here:
You'll continue down on some gravel doubletrack, curving right, until you reach a little wallride on the right.
Keep on riding, not much to see here, then take your next left which is where the singletrack begins.
It's easy to blow past this, so don't miss it. Again, you want to take a left here.
This is the point you can start to get a little bit of a feel for the rest of the trail. There will be scattered sections like what you see here on the left, with batches of roots and potentially a few rock armored sections.
They are not too much to worry about, even when wet, but there are sections where they can be grouped together in awkward ways, so keeping momentum and your pedals moving is helpful.
Some of them will also drop off a little bit, maybe 6 inches or so, not enough to be concerned with, but be prepared for it.
Next you'll encounter this cool little rock bridge, it's easy to roll over it and is low consequence, so walk or ride it until you reach this rock armored segment:
This is a pretty well built rock armored section, with no real holes to fall into, it does drop off a little at the end, but nothing that requires any major technique to get over.
Continue on, splash through the shallow creek, then continue on until you reach this sign:
After this sign, the trail leads onto the right, which will take you to the first of several bridges
The bridges are wide and fairly new, they are not too slippery when wet, but some cross fairly deep ravines, so be on the lookout. They aren't something to be overly concerned with, but it helps to take the corner just before a bit wide so you can set yourself up for the center:
What follows after this bridge is a brief pedaly section, then you'll run into a short little downhill with a few roots. Again, nothing super big, but you'll want to be on your guard if you are really new to riding, because they do drop off a little bit. You can also see there is a slightly smoother line to the right.
Immediately after this short downhill segment is bridge #2, which is followed by a short, steep climb, so be sure to be in an appropriate gear. The bridge is just as wide and easy as the other, but once again, be sure to start the turn to the bridge wide so you have enough space. The steep climb is short (50ft at most) and is followed by a pretty steady, mellow climb that is brief and followed by a short pedaly section that is mostly flat.
Once you reach the intersection shown on the right (note the trail to the right and left), you'll know you are approaching the most technical feature on the trail. It's probably worth taking a minute here to evaluate what comes next. It's also worth noting the climbout to the right returns you to Cove Creek Rd, which can be taken to the Daniel's Ridge connector, something we'll cover elsewhere.
Cove continues on the left side, where you'll see the trail drops off a bit into a rock garden:
This section then leads into a log bridge, then a very short hike-a-bike section.
This feature is a bit easier to understand if you view it from the bottom:
The combination of these two photos should let you see what is here as best as photos can.
The first part of the feature to tackle is a small, rollable drop down a few roots, which leads you to a flat section that dumps you into the rock garden. The rock garden has a few small drops in it and it's possible to get hung up on the rocks, but it's not steep enough that you can't stop in the middle and hangup sections are few.
As with riding anything in Pisgah, there is no shame in walking any of this. I've ridden this several dozen times and some days, I'm just not feeling it and I walk it. Just know this is the most difficult feature on Cove, so there is no shame in passing it up.
If you do decide to ride it, there are a few ways to approach this:
The left line from the top allows a straight shot down both drops, but you risk getting too close to that small tree on the left.
The rock in the center, also allows a straight shot, and you can drop off the rock, but you don't wanna get too much speed before the log bridge.
The third, and what I usually do, is enter the first series of root drops on the left side and aim for the rock in the center of the flat section, then roll down the right side of the rocks. You have to be careful not to go too wide and get hung up on the dead tree, but this gives you the safest approach and the most options IMO.
Moving on from here, you'll encounter the log bridge and hike a bike I mentioned before:
The crossing is sturdy and steady, cross it and push up the rooty section that follows. Once you finish the hike a bike, which should only take a minute or two, you'll cross bridge #3 and encounter the second most difficult section of the trail.
The photo above is looking back at the features, which are basically a series of rolldowns. They aren't terribly large or steep, but can be intimidating if you aren't used to them. The photo above is looking back at them and you have two line choices:
Go to the right, roll down the waterbars
Go to the left, rolldown the root
None of the above are true drops, they can be comfortably rolled, but you don't want it to take you off guard. The key in all of the above is to avoid the rotten logs in the center, they are asking to catch your front tire and slip you up. This is where the line to the left (down the root instead of the rock/logs) has the advantage, there is a lot more room.
From here, the downhill really begins and runs for a fair while. We only cover the significant features here, but there is a lot of steady downhill on Cove that runs for about 2 1/2 miles. The trail opens up and turns into a wonderful, fast combination of flowy and rooty, weaving through covered and open sections in a downhill that is one of my favorites in the area. There are plenty of roots to bump jump, different lines to take, and awesome sections. There are a few small narrow spots, so be careful flying into them the first time, but they aren't something to be overly aware of unless you are really going fast.
It is very important to watch for hikers, especially as you get closer to to the intersection with Cove Creek falls. This is a popular hike for families and mountain bikers climb this trail, so please keep your eyes up and speed under control. There are plenty of spots you can round a corner into a group of people, so please be aware of what day it is and how busy it is.
Coming from the top, you can tell where the trail to the falls is by this rock and a sign (this is looking back to the top of the trail). The trail to the falls is hiking only.
From here, you'll continue down more of the same until you pass the Cove Creek campground on the left and come to this creek crossing:
This intersection can lead you either to Daniel's Ridge on the right or back to the road on the left. We'll cover the Daniel's route later, so we're gonna go left from here.
Eventually, you'll reach the gravel road in front of the campground, go right.
Ride down the road, watch for cars and people, hit the wall rides, jump the rocks, have all sorts of fun on this short, gravel downhill. Eventually, a deep stream will come into sight:
The bridge on your left is super easy to miss and the creek is usually too deep to cross by bike, so if you start getting close to the water, know you can turn around and go across the bridge.
Cross the bridge, turn around and you'll see the Cove Creek Group Camp sign. That marks the end of Cove Creek, but you aren't back at the fish hatchery yet!
To get back to your car (assuming you parked at the hatchery), you can do one of three things:
Ride the asphalt road to your left (yuck)
Go to the left, briefly follow the road, then take Davidson River trail on the right down to the hatchery (the only year round option).
Link up with Cat Gap either via Long Branch or Butter, which takes you back to the hatchery. This is only available Oct 15-April15 for mountain biking.
You can also head into more of the hatchery area trails, like Daniel's Ridge, Butter Gap, Long Branch, or Farlow Gap.
If you take Davidson River trail, this is the entrance you are looking for on the right of the asphalt road:
Starting at the Fish Hatchery, take a left onto the asphalt road and take your first right onto a gated gravel road (gate may be closed or open depending on the time of year). You will climb this road (Headwaters Rd, 475B) for a while (approx 4 miles) until you reach Cove Creek Rd, which is another gated road on the left. You'll know you are getting close when the road climb starts to mellow out, flatten, then turn downhill briefly.
Watch on the left, don't blow past the turn to Cove Creek Rd (it's your first left after the road turns downhill). Follow that until the road pitches down, then you'll see the Cove Creek trail gate on the left.