Bad Fork Trail Route Map

Bad Fork Trail (3-3-19)

The Bad Fork Trail is a rather unremarkable footpath which connects the road network to the north of the North Mills Recreation Area with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Despite the fact that this is a trail that doesn’t really connect or provide access to any landmarks of note, it nonetheless remains a very well-maintained and easy-to-follow footpath. You can start from either end, depending on whether you want an uphill or downhill hike for the return trek. I prefer the latter so I started from Forest Road 5000 (also known as Wash Creek Road) at a point where makes a sharp left turn across Bad Fork 2.5-miles up from the North Mills Recreation Area. The trailhead, on my visit, was unmarked so could be hard to spot. To locate it look for an obvious path entering the rhododendron just after the road crosses Bad Fork. Backcountry Campsite #78 is directly across the road at this point. The lower portion of the trail is fairly flat as it alternates time in and out of thick rhododendron groves and occasionally bumps up alongside its namesake stream. At a bit over a half-mile above the trailhead the path makes its first crossing of Bad Fork and, in the following quarter-mile, crosses it an additional four times. Not all the crossings are bridged but don’t be too concerned about that as crossings are little more than quick hops at normal flows. For the next half-mile the trail continues to parallel Bad Fork but at a bit more conservative distance. Then, just after crossing a tiny tributary flowing down from nearby Cold Knob, the serious climb finally begins. In the next half-mile the Bad Fork Trail gains as much elevation as it has its entire route up to this point…over 400 vertical feet. Bad Fork itself is left behind at this point as the path makes a meandering and moderately steep climb. The thick rhododendron surrounding the creek gives way to groves of mountain laurel and then to open hardwood forest the higher the trail climbs. Then, 1.8-miles after leaving the lower trailhead, the path emerges at a gated forest access road (actually the upper end of Wash Creek Road) only a few dozen yards below its junction with the Blue Ridge Parkway. To return, just spin 180-degrees and retrace your steps back down the valley.

So, honestly, there’s not much to say about the Bad Fork Trail. I did it simply to check another trail off the list towards my completion of all the footpaths in the Pisgah Ranger District. It offers a good stretch of the legs, but that’s about it. There’s nothing remarkable to see, though bubbling Bad Fork is pleasant. It is a well-maintained path, however, so if you find yourself in the North Mills area and just need a simple and straightforward walk in the woods then the Bad Fork Trail could be a nice option for you. That said let’s get to the hike…I present now a walk along the Bad Fork Trail of Pisgah National Forest...as always, please ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.432248, -82.656341


Route Type:  Out-and-back       Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzoldt Rating:  5.50 )

Hike Length:  3.8 miles                Hike Duration:  1:30

Trailhead Temp:  50'F                 Trail Traffic:  NONE!!

Min. Elevation:  2,460'                  Max. Elevation:  3,280'

Total Vertical Gain:  850'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  447'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Bad Fork Trail (orange)


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