Mountain Biking the Mills River Trailhead
The Mills River watershed is a large and popular area for mountain biking. Stretching from Bent Creek Gap in the north to the Pink Beds near Davidson River in the south, and bordered by the Blue Ridge Parkway to the west and NC 280 to the east, Mills River has the largest collection of trails of any area in Western North Carolina and many of the trails have a truly backcountry character. This includes trails near both the North and South Forks of the Mills River.
Developed National Forest trailheads, located within the Mills River Trailhead as defined for this site, include Trace Ridge (also called Wash Creek and Fletcher Creek), Laurel Mountain, and Turkeypen. Many loops can be made from these trails and connecting gravel roads. Two of these loops - Fletcher Creek and Laurel Mountain - are WNC Best Rides.
Highlights of this area include the Hendersonville Reservoir and Dam (in the Fletcher Creek area), the North Mills River, the South Mills River, Pilot Rock, and miles and miles of spectacular and challenging backcountry trails leading to them all.
Places to Stay
North Mills River Campground
Located five miles west of NC 280 on North Mills River Road - at the entrance to the National Forest. Now open year-round (with limited services from November 1 - March 31), this campground offers 16 level, shady sites with flush toilets. Smaller RV's will fit into some sites and are welcome, but no water or electricity hookups are provided. Rates are $17/night. The campground is across the road from the river and a picnic area and large grassy meadow are nearby. The campground is within a short distance of trails that start at Trace Ridge trailhead, and within a few minutes' drive of all trails in the Pisgah ranger district.
To get more information and reserve a site, visit the North Mills River Campground page on Recreation.gov.
Designated Roadside Campsites
Several of these are located along FS 5000 and FS 1206 as well. These sites have recently been re-graded, with the parking areas enlarged, steps added, gravel tent pads and lantern posts as well as some other fixtures such as fire rings installed. This makes these sites much more desirable for those looking to save a buck on campsites, but they are for tents only on a first-come, first-served basis, and are usually completely full on summer weekends.
If you would like to see your place of lodging listed here, please contact us.
To North Mills River Campground/Recreation Area (map on left):
From Asheville, take I-240 west to I-26 east. Take Asheville Airport exit (exit 40) and go south (right) on NC 280 for 3.9 miles. Just past intersection with NC 191, make a right at the stoplight onto North Mills River Road and follow signs to the North Mills River Recreation area in 5.0 miles. The recreation area parking is on the left; the campground is on the right.
To the Trace Ridge Trailhead:
Just past North Mills River Recreation Area parking lot, make a right onto Wash Creek Road, which is now paved for the first 1/4 mile or so. Follow this for several miles; this is FS 479 although a sign at the beginning used to say "1000". Turn left onto the first un-gated gravel road which has a concrete low-water bridge, and follow this 0.5 mile to the Trace Ridge trailhead and parking lot.
To the Turkeypen Trailhead (South Mills River area):
Continue past the turnoff for North Mills River Road on NC 280. Turn right on Turkeypen Road after 7.1 miles (11.1 miles from Exit 40 on I-26). This is a narrow gravel road about a mile long; a large parking area is available at the end where several trails begin.