Perry Cove Loop & Overlook Rock
This hike, which I’ve unofficially dubbed the Perry Cove Loop, would mark the first of many forays I’d be making into the Avery Creek area of the Pisgah Ranger District in 2019. In many ways it was a mirror hike of the one I took a few months earlier, on the Coontree Loop, which ascends the opposite side of the same ridge and also sports Overlook Rock as an optional side trip. This loop, which I’d rate as moderately strenuous, offers a nice tour of the mid-elevation forests which are common in this part of Pisgah as well as a couple fantastic viewpoints, from the aforementioned Overlook Rock, of some of the more famous summits which lay nearby to the north and west. The only drawback to this hike is that, to make it a complete loop, requires a half-mile road walk along Forest Road 477. The road does this by connecting the Bennett Gap Trail to the south with the Perry Cove Trail to the north. It’s not a huge reason to skip this hike but it may turn some off to it, so I thought I’d give fair warning. The aforementioned Coontree Loop might be a better option if this is the case as it is a “true” loop sans road walk. Back to this hike though…
Being that this is a loop you have two directions to choose from heading out. I began the loop from the south end of the Bennett Gap Trail, which is located along Forest Road 477 where it crosses Avery Creek 1.3-miles up from U.S. 276 (0.4-miles before the Pisgah Horse Stables). From this point I chose to hike the loop in a clockwise direction. Upon hiking the loop I found this to be a wise decision as the climb of the ridge is more gradual via the Bennett Gap Trail as compared to the much steeper Perry Cove Trail. It also saves the best and worst of the hike, Overlook Rock and then the road walk, for the back half of the loop. Still, it’s your choice. Heading out as I did via the Bennett Gap Trail the hike begins with a near-continuous moderately steep climb of a mile to the ridgetop at Coontree Gap. There’s nothing really remarkable about this part of the hike, it’s just a climb through the woods. At Coontree Gap the Coontree Loop Trail joins the Bennett Gap Trail and then coincides with it for the next ¾ mile as the route now turns north along the crest of the ridge. The climbing isn’t over yet either, there’s another 400 vertical feet to be climbed in the next half-mile. The forest up here, though, is beautiful and in winter there are glimpses of the nearby hills to be had through the leafless canopy. Where the trail dips into a narrow gap just south of Coontree Mountain the Coontree Loop once again departs to the west. At this point there is another brief climb to make as the Bennett Gap Trail climbs the hill cane covered south slopes of Coontree Mountain. Just before reaching the summit the trail veers to the east to bypass it and then begins a moderate descent to Saddle Gap where the junction with the Perry Cove Trail is located.
One could at this point simply turn onto the Perry Cove Trail to continue on the loop. This, however, would skip out on the highlight of this entire hike…the quarter-mile out-and-back side trip to the twin viewpoints of Overlook Rock. So bypass the Perry Cove Trail for now and continue up the steep and increasingly narrow ridge along the Bennett Gap Trail. The steep climb is brief, however, and soon the trail tops out atop the narrow ridge at a pile of boulders where an obvious side path leads to Overlook Rock itself. From this tiny outcrop the spectacular view looks towards neighboring Looking Glass Rock and the high Pisgah Ridge beyond. After taking in the view at Overlook Rock continue up the trail along the narrow ridge another steep tenth of a mile and you’ll reach another, upper, overlook from whose vantage point you’ll enjoy one of the finest views of Pisgah National Forests famous trio of plutons seen anywhere. Looking Glass Rock, John Rock, and Cedar Rock Mountain are front and center across the valley to the west. It’s an incredible spot. This is where you’ll thank me for telling you to make this short side trip. After soaking up the views simply retrace your steps the quarter-mile down to Saddle Gap where now the loop can continue.
Turning onto the Perry Cove Trail the route now begins the descent that will take you back down to Forest Road 477. Unlike the Bennett Gap Trail used on the ascent, I found the Perry Cove Trail to have much more character. It’s ever-changing. It’s steep, then it’s flat, then it’s steep again. It passes open hardwood forest, beneath laurel thickets, and through groves of young pines. It even follows a pleasant little stream for a portion of its length. A bit over a mile below Saddle Gap the Perry Cove Trail reaches Forest Road 5054, which is gated at it lower end, meaning the trail technically extends another 1/10-mile to the intersection with Forest Road 477. A right turn and a half mile walk along 477 later and you’ll have completed the loop. Overall this is a nice little hike. It’s a nice alternate option for reaching Overlook Rock to the nearby Coontree Loop though, as the latter doesn’t require a road walk, I’d probably rate that a bit higher personally. Regardless of the way you take, however, Overlook Rock is a destination that is more than worth the effort required to reach it. That said, and without further ado, I now present a hike around the Perry Cove Loop and Overlook Rock. As always, I hope you ENJOY!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.304900, -82.739475
Route Type: Loop Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: 4.6 miles Hike Duration: 2:15
Trailhead Temp: 40'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 2,320' Max. Elevation: 3,520'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,300' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 283'
Trails Used (blaze color): Bennett Gap (red), Coontree Loop (blue), Perry Cove (orange)