South Mills River Trail

At A Glance

12 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 12 (Difficult)
Steepness: Climbs Gently
Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Blaze Color: White
Trail Number: 133


This is a stream side trail along an old road bed for much of its length; pulls away from the river along one section around High Falls. Some roots and rocks spice up the ride here and there. Crosses the river using bridges (concrete and suspension) but fords it many times as well (especially between the intersection of Cantrell Creek and Squirrel Gap trails, a section which is also muddy and overgrown, so most riders avoid it). The mud pits will be nearly impossible to avoid so don't try, it'll only widen them. The trail receives heavy horse usage. The river is wide and scenic as it drops out of the Pink Beds.

Provides connections to several other trails in the South Mills River area such as Squirrel Gap, Cantrell Creek and Mullinax making for good loop options.

Intersecting Trails

  • Bradley Creek
  • Buckhorn Gap
  • Cantrell Creek
  • Mullinax
  • Poundingmill
  • Squirrel Gap
  • Turkey Pen Gap
  • Vineyard Gap
  • Wagon Road Gap
  • This trail is located in the Mills River area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Mills River trails list page.

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    Total Calculated Length: 13.55 mi

    This value is derived from our underlying map data, and it may not match officially published information.



    Average Rating: 4.3 (rated 7 times)

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    Kenneth Foret said: We just finished our hike (early April '18) and we took the south mills river trail out of turkey pen parking lot. I was with my three children ages 13-16. The trail is great up to Cantrell Creek trail with a few suspension bridge crossings and wide trail. A few mountain bikers and a couple of other hikers made the trail very peaceful. Great campsites along this section of trail and there are not a ton of blazes and the white can sometimes be hard to see with moss on the trees. But we found the trail very easy to follow. If you continue on like we did to Squire Gap trail be prepared for quite a few stream crossings (about 10). Since it was early April I suspect the flow was much more than in summer but it was challenging to cross at a couple of sites. I'm 6'2" and one crossing the water was high up on my thighs. It added a lot of time to the trip and the water was very cold. The trail in this section is also a lot narrower, single track, with low over growth impinging on the trail. Not sure what kind of undergrowth it was, it didn't hurt much, but was very annoying. The trail is still very easy to follow but was much longer then I thought from the map. If I had it to do over I definitely would have skipped this part of the trail.
    Wednesday, April 4 2018 8:14pm
    JC said: I highly recommend this trail for a daytrip or overnight! Easy hike with lots of beautiful sites. Runs along the river with great campsites all over.
    Sunday, June 9 2013 7:27pm
    gjm said: Just got back from 3 days on this trail, and I have to say, it is an extremely beautiful hike! We didn't experience any navigational difficulty, blazes are few and far between, luckily all the side trails are marked well. We turned back at the crossing just before the intersection of squirrel gap, the water was up quite a bit and there was no crossing with packs! Make sure you are aware of the water levels before attempting this trail, I can't wait to hit it again in the summer.
    Sunday, April 14 2013 10:10pm
    JLS said: had a similar experience as JLO. Set out to do an easy 3-day loop around South Mills & Squirrel Gap. First took a wrong turn which ended up being a shortcut over a ridge-top from just before the trail meets the Buckhorn Gap trail to just before it meets the Squirrel Gap Trail. Could not for the life of us figure out where the trail continues after the junction with Squirrel Gap (about 5 miles in), but there are 2 really nice campsites on the river there and 2 others within the first 5 miles. The part of the trail we were on WAS lovely - nice and wide in most places with an easy grade. No vistas but nice valley scenery. Looks like a lot of great places to swim in the summer. A nice hike if you come in with the right expectations, I guess. If I came back I'd just plan to spend one night at a riverside campsite.
    Sunday, October 21 2012 1:09pm
    JLO said: This would probably be a nice trail if there were blazes because then you could figure out where you were supposed to be going. There were plenty of extra trails not shown on the map, and we ended up taking the wrong turns and had to backtrack quite a ways several times when we hit dead ends on what looked like the right path. I am a very experienced hiker and map reader and have never had problems like this before. It got very frustrating backpacking with a child. The campsites that we found were really nice though, at least we had a positive experience with that. We ran into two other groups that had their maps out also that were having the same problem trying to find the trail as we were. After three days of trying to figure out where we were supposed to be going, we gave up and hiked back to our car. On a side note, make sure you bring shoes that can get wet, we ended up switching between our boots and sandals quite often with the fords which became very time consuming.
    Sunday, October 9 2011 11:28pm
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