Grassy Road Trail -- 2,590'

Andy Cove Nature Trail & Grassy Road Trail Loop

This hike is a bit different than most share on this site. It, essentially, can be considered a two-parter. You can do both at once, as I did, or simply pick one or the other if the whole thing doesn’t interest you. Each of the hikes start from the Pisgah Ranger Station and Visitor Center located a short distance into the forest along US-276. The first follows the Andy Cove Nature Trail, which makes an easy loop up along the adjacent ridge and through a small valley as it introduces visitors to a typical local forest landscape. The second hike is a lollipop-style loop incorporating all or portions of the Black Mountain, Thrift Cove, Grassy Road, Sycamore Cove, and Starens Branch Trails. Access to this loop (from the ranger station) is along a short, so-called Exercise Trail and a brief stroll alongside Highway 276. Neither hike is all that spectacular. Neither lead to sweeping views or scenic cascades. Andy Cove is simply an easy introductory walk for forest visitors while the loop up around the Grassy Road Trail is only a moderately more difficult hike up around another, stereotypical, Pisgah National Forest hardwood cove. I may never have hiked them save for my pursuit of hiking all of the trails in the district. There’s nothing here you won’t experience on a myriad of other trails in the region. If, however, you find yourself at the ranger station and want to burn a bit of energy in the woods then either or both of these hikes might be for you.

I’d start out by warming up on the Andy Cove Nature Trail. Heading in a counter-clockwise direction the trail first climbs form the parking area up the adjacent hillside to a boardwalk which provides some unique views into the surrounding forest canopy. A short distance later a cool suspension-style footbridge takes the trail across a narrow but deep ravine. The loop then continues by winding its way down into Andy Cove itself, making a couple crossings of the tiny unnamed stream which flows through it. The landscape here is incredibly lush, with the forest floor covered in rhododendron, ferns, and other small shrubs while tall hardwoods form an unbroken canopy far above. After a final stream crossing the loop heads back towards the ranger station on a level grade, briefly joining with the Exercise Trail from the nearby Davidson River Campground right at the end.

The second hike departs the parking area at the ranger station via the aforementioned Exercise Trail, which heads east. This winding trail rolls its way past the Forest Service Maintenance yard before emerging at US-276 a quarter-mile later. At this point you have to head left (south) along the highway a short distance to the parking area at the Black Mountain Trailhead. The Black Mountain Trail departs from the upper end of this large parking area, heading up into the woods for less than a quarter-mile to its junction with the Thrift Cove Trail on the right which you now need to turn onto. The Thrift Cove ascends for the next 1/3-mile to the Y-intersection where the Grassy Road Trail breaks right (passing the Starens Branch Trail a short distance before. The Grassy Road Trail is a bit over a mile long and pretty much all uphill. This is a popular trail with bikers, just so you’re aware. The Grassy Road Trail ascends the west side of the valley at an easy to moderate grade then, at its upper end flattens out as it curves around to meet the Sycamore Cove Trail. Now you’ll bear right onto the Sycamore Cove Trail to follow the valley back south, just a bit further down the side of the ridge which you previously ascended along. After making a crossing of tiny Starens Branch the trail remains high above the floor of the valley, which is thickly covered by rhododendron. Just over a half-mile after leaving the Grassy Road Trail veer right onto the Starens Branch Trail which makes a steep 200-yard climb up the ridge back to the Thrift Cove Trail. At this point simply make a left to walk the ¾-mile back along the Thrift Cove, Black Mountain and Exercise Trails to the Pisgah Ranger Station.

This is a pleasant hike, whether you decide to walk only one of, or both of, the described loops. As stated earlier you won’t pass any truly remarkable natural features but you will get to enjoy an extended walk through a beautiful, lower-elevation, Pisgah National Forest woodland. You won’t exert that much energy to do it, either. That said, I now invite you to come along with me as I make the two-part hike of the Andy Cove Nature Trails and a loop including the Grassy Road Trail. As always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.285114, -82.726723


Route Type:  Loop + Lollipop     Difficulty:  EASY (only Andy Cove); CHALLENGING (both)  (Petzoldt Rating:  5.22 )

Hike Length:  4.1 miles                Hike Duration:  1:30

Trailhead Temp:  80'F                 Trail Traffic:  10-25 people

Min. Elevation:  2,150'                  Max. Elevation:  2,620'

Total Vertical Gain:  560'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  137'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Andy Cove Nature (unblazed), Black Mountain (white), Exercise (unblazed), Grassy Road (orange), Starens Branch (blue), Sycamore Cove (blue), Thrift Cove (red)


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