Fletcher Creek Ride
This tributary of Mills River has many popular trails in its watershed. This ride features a difficult climb, ridge riding, a very steep and technical downhill, technical singletrack, and gravel road cruising. It also includes the awesome Fletcher Creek singletrack trail, which is a fast downhill through lush forests and open fields. Also be sure to check out the Hendersonville Reservoir and Dam for scenery.
At A Glance
From Asheville, take I-240 west to I-26 east. Take Asheville Airport exit (exit 40) and go south (right) on NC 280. Just past intersection with NC 191, make a right at the stoplight and Ingles supermarket onto North Mills River Road and follow signs to the North Mills River Recreation area. Just past North Mills River Recreation Area parking lot, make a right onto Wash Creek Road, FS 479, which is now paved for the first 1/4 mile or so. Follow this for just under 2 miles. Turn left onto the 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.
Note 1: The Forest Service has completed a logging project in this area, which involved re-constructing the lower part of the Trace Ridge trail, which is an inventoried road. Watch for changes to the trail since the project.
Note 2: The upper portion of the Spencer Branch trail has been re-routed around the steep section that drops from Trace Ridge. Mileages will be slightly longer than indicated.
Start out the ride by passing over several large bulldozer-created humps on the Trace Ridge trail. The trail levels out onto an old roadbed. But it soon veers steeply uphill to begin its climb up the ridge. The next 2.3 miles are mostly climbing with four long, steep, technical sections, interspersed with short, level or slightly downhill sections.
The surface is variable. Loose rocks will cause your tires to slip in some places, while windblown piles of leaves hamper your climb in others. The climbs are fairly steep, but mostly rideable. Large water turnouts were bulldozed into the trail in April 2001, making it more uneven. The trail will pass over a large rock slab and top out at about 3480' elevation.
After the top of the ridge, the trail begins a loose rocky downhill, through the ridgeline pine-oak forest, and mountain laurel shrubs. At the bottom of this short downhill stretch is the intersection with the Spencer Branch trail, where you'll turn left.
In times past, the Spencer Branch trail plunged straight off the side of the ridge onto one of the most technical stretches of trail in the area. However, as of October 2015, this trail has been re-routed onto a more gradual side-hill descent with a few switchbacks. It is more of a flowy trail now, although it does have a few technical features and rock gardens to spice it up. Near the bottom, where the trail levels out, you'll cross a new bridge before reaching Fletcher Creek Road (FS 5097).
This road is a gravel cruiser. It is also known as the Neverending Road because it seems to go on forever. Spencer Gap trail goes straight across, but don't take that: turn right here. Don't worry: you'll only ride a mile long section of Neverending Road that will climb and then descend gently to an intersection with the Fletcher Creek trail.
Turn left here. You'll begin a great downhill. It's not very steep, but it's fast with enough rocky, rooty, and wet sections to spice it up. The singletrack is tight in places, and it passes through some interesting fields on its way. In recent years, some erosion problems and mud holes have cropped up along this section of trail, but it's also received some maintenance work, so conditions may vary.
You'll emerge at the intersection with the Spencer Branch trail again. Both trails share a wide crossing of Fletcher Creek here. You can either ride straight across, or take a chance and go downstream a few hundred feet on a fern-lined trail to see if there is a log bridge. Note: this log bridge was washed away during the floods of September, 2004. It may or may not be replaced.
Pick back up on the Fletcher Creek trail again on the other side of the creek. The trail continues with a short, moderate uphill. It tops out on this hill and becomes a rocky, fast, thrilling downhill with lots of earthen waterbars and a few good jumps. This trail will shoot you out at high speed onto the Hendersonville Reservoir Road, going in the correct direction to finish the ride. If you would like, however, you can turn right instead and go a few hundred feet to see the Hendersonville Reservoir and dam - a nice little diversion.
To return to the starting point without seeing the dam, make a "left" (basically straight) at this intersection. This fun doubletrack/gravel road will undulate up and down and terminate in the parking lot after a short but tedious climb.
Other Options: This ride is intended to highlight some of the best the North Mills River area has to offer. Many other riding options exist in the vicinity. Check your map if you want a longer ride!
All Photos from This Ride
|Start||Ride up the Trace Ridge trail, which is to the right of the parking lot as you came in. Ride over the large bulldozed mounds.|
|0.2||Trace Ridge trail bears left, steeply uphill. Next 2.3 miles uphill.|
|2.5||Top of the ridge. Trail passes over a large rock slab.|
|2.8||Intersection with the recently re-routed Spencer Branch trail. Turn left. The next section is downhill.|
|3.6||Intersection with Fletcher Creek Road (Neverending Road). Turn right.|
|4.6||Intersection with Fletcher Creek trail. Turn left.|
|5.8||Intersection with creek and Middle Fork trail. Turn left, cross the creek, and then go straight to pick back up on the signed Fletcher Creek trail (uphill). (Note: to avoid this wet creek crossing, there used to be a log bridge a few hundred feet downstream from this crossing. However, this log was washed away during the floods of September, 2004)|
|7.1||Trail merges with Hendersonville Reservoir Road. Turn right and ride a few hundred feet upstream to see the dam, or turn left (basically go straight) to continue the ride on this road.|
|8.4||Finish, road terminates in the Trace Ridge trailhead parking lot.|
Green highlight indicates the route to follow within the trail network for this ride.
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