Bear Branch @ Forest Road 5001 -- 2,800'

Bear Branch Trail (3-3-19)

The Bear Branch Trail, like its nearby neighbor to the north the Bad Fork Trail, is a fairly unremarkable hiking path which ascends one of the many small valleys leading up from Wash Creek Road. This is a short-distance footpath, and one that gains very little elevation over its length, so it probably won’t satisfy most people’s cravings for a good day hike. It is possible, as I did, to pair it with a hike of the aforementioned Bad Fork Trail for a bit more challenging day out. The Bear Branch Trail departs Forest Road 5000 (Wash Creek Road) alongside the entrance to the Wash Creek Horse Camp about 1.9-miles above the North Mills Recreation Area. The majority of its length is along a fairly level grade as the trail ascends alongside its namesake stream at a barely perceptible rate. When the path pulls near the stream the surroundings are dominated by rhododendron thickets but, more noticeable here, is how dominant pines are in the forest. I’m a sucker for a pine forest so, despite the lack of any notable scenery on this hike, I still managed to enjoy myself quite a bit. About ¾-mile up, the Bear Branch Trail makes a few quick crossings of tiny Bear Branch and then starts a bit more noticeable climb for its remaining half-mile. The forest is more open along this stretch, allowing for some pretty scenes of the creek nearby. At the 1.2-mile mark the Bear Branch Trail reaches its upper terminus at its junction with Forest Road 5001, which is gated to motorized vehicles. At this point simply turn back to retrace your steps to the trailhead.

As stated earlier this isn’t an altogether exciting hike. It’s easy, but it’s quite short and it doesn’t lead to or from any landmarks of note. If you’re in the North Mills area and need a quick straightforward walk in the woods type hike the Bear Branch fits the bill but that’s about it. Another option might be to combine it with a hike of the nearby Bad Fork Trail as well which, between the two, adds up to a more satisfying 6+ miles of walking. For me completing this trail was just a requirement of my goal to complete all the trails in the Pisgah Ranger District. It was a pleasant hike but probably not one I’ll be repeating in the near future. Even so, any walk in Pisgah is something to enjoy so I can’t complain too much. All that said I now present my quick walk along the Bear Branch Trail…as always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.425962, -82.652554


Route Type:  Out-and-back        Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  3.12 )

Hike Length:  2.4 miles                Hike Duration:  1:00

Trailhead Temp:  50'F                 Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  2,440'                  Max. Elevation:  2,800'

Total Vertical Gain:  360'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  300'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Bear Branch Trail (blue)


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