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Thrift Cove (Climb)

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Summary: A relatively smooth, but steep climb that ends in a fast downhill to the intersection with Lower Black Mountain

Difficulty: Pisgah Beginner - The climb is fairly steep and will require decent fitness, however there are few minor technical sections and the trail is mostly smooth until the downhill, where there is one small rock garden and a fast segment leading up to Black, but nothing of consequence.

Length/Elevation Change: Approx 1 mile and 600ft of climbing

Notable features: There are a few short sections with roots that need to be climbed over and one rock garden at the start of the downhill. The trail is otherwise fairly smooth and wide.


The trail begins at the first parking lot on the right in Pisgah:

The gravel trail will climb up briefly, past a wallride on the left, to the intersection with Black Mountain:

If your ride Lower Black, this is where the trail dumps out. For now, stay right and continue climbing. After a brief bit of climbing, you'll come to the first steep climbing bit on the trail:

There are a handful of these on the trail, where the trail pitches up steeply for a brief period of time, then flattens off. They get a bit longer further up, but this is a good one to get a feel for your pacing and cadence for going up these steep segments.

Immediately after, you'll go right and encounter another:

After the second climbing bit above, you'll reach the intersection with Starnes Branch on the right:

You'll stay straight here, but if you have time at the end, the Starnes downhill here is short and fun, dumping you out on the lower part of Lower Sycamore (just before the switchback), which makes a good ~1 mile add-on.

Continuing on, you'll climb over a small rock bit, then reach this intersection:

If you go right, the trail turns into Grassy Rd Trail, which takes you to Sycamore. For Thrift, stay left and continue climbing.

As soon as you continue, you'll run into this section:

There isn't much to worry with here, but it's a good example of what several sections ahead are like. The trail is typically wide enough to provide multiple line choices, but all of them will have some technical aspect to them, typically a rut, a rock or root, and some loose rocks. They are mostly short and low consequence, but it's worth noting that there are a handful of these sections going up from here. Most more experienced riders probably won't put too much thought into these, but since Thrift->Black is often ridden by newer riders to the area, they are worth noting.

The trail curves left and eventually you'll run into another good example of the features you'll see on Thrift:

The roots above aren't much to be concerned with, but there are a few of these on the trail going up, where you can either cut on the outside of the trail (left) and take a narrower, but smoother line or go right and ride over the roots. I typically stay to the inside and ride the roots, but that'll be a preference thing.

The trail will weave around a bit, then you'll curve left and see this rootball:

The line on the left of this section is tempting, because it seems smoother, but it's washed out and rutted, which is easy to get trapped in. I usually recommend staying far right and riding over the roots, even though it isn't as smooth.

Continuing on, the left side of the trail will open up some and you'll run into what I think is the most awkward part of thrift:

While this section doesn't look bad, it's in the middle of the steepest climbing segment on the trail, is typically loose, and there isn't a really smooth line through it. The trail flattens out shortly after, but don't be alarmed if you get caught off here, it's kindof a tiring segment. I typically chug through the center as best as I can, most of the lines through this segment are equal in difficulty.

The trail will continue to climb a bit, then flatten out until you reach this section, which is easy to observe due to the way it opens up:

The trail curves left, but this is a good marker for where you are on the trail, it's about 3/4 of the way up, so if you reach this, you are almost done climbing. The segment above is also one of the last steep climbing bits.

Continuing on, you'll eventually reach this section:

You can observe this section because of the smooth line on the outside and the rather large rootball on the right, consisting of small, low laying roots. Once you reach this, the trail will flatten out and turn downhill briefly:

You'll cross this old stream with some rocks laid down:

After the segment above, the trail climbs very briefly, until you start the final downhill to Black Mountain:

Shortly after it turns downhill, you'll come up on a rock garden:

These rocks aren't much to worry about unless you take a really bad line or come in awkward, but it does turn left fairly shortly after, so that's worth keeping in mind. There are a few lines, none good or bad, just depends on what you want. This section is also a good prep for what's on Lower Black, since the rock armoring on Lower Black is really similar in character.

You can see the rocks from the other side here:

From here, the trail opens up a fair bit and becomes mostly smooth. There is a short pedaly bit where the trail flattens out, before it turns downhill into a flowy, mostly smooth bit of downhill. The main thing from here is to watch your speed, it's real easy to get very fast and a bit out of control. There aren't any real technical features of note at the moment.

After the short downhill, you'll reach the intersection with Black, which ends Thrift Cove.


Park at the first parking lot on the right after entering Pisgah, the walkthrough picks up directly from that parking lot.

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