Summey Cove Trail to Courthouse Falls (3-4-16)
Leading as it does to Courthouse Falls (which is easily one of my favorite NC cascades) you'd think I would have long since hiked Summey Cove Trail. Trouble is, nearby FR-140 leads to within a quarter mile of the falls and I'm ashamed to say that's been way to convenient an option to pass up on previous visits. This past fall, though, I learned that the Forest Service was planning on permanently closing the Summey Cove Trail so I decided that I couldn't wait to hike it any longer.
The trail itself begins off Highway 215 north of Balsam Grove in western Transylvania County. Though the USFS trailhead stake has been removed the path is still fairly easy to find. There is a large pull-off on the west side of the highway about a mile up from FR-140 just prior to a sharp corner over a bridge. The trail is obvious (as of 2016) as it enters the rhododendron across the road from the pull-off. The route is a fairly strenuous one, though mostly in the first and last miles as the trail crosses Big Fork Ridge. Other than that the Summey Cove Trail is nothing but pleasant as it weaves in and out of its namesake valley and the valley of Station Mill Creek. As it nears the falls you even get to see a bonus cascades if you're listening for it. Less than a quarter mile from Courthouse, Mill Station Creek tumbles down a series of beautiful rock steps perhaps a hundred feet off the path. At the two mile mark the ubiquitous old log blazed "Falls" that has so long announced marked the spur to Courthouse juts out into the main path. After spending some time soaking in the stunning beauty of Courthouse Falls you get to look forward to enjoying this wonderful trail all over again in the other direction!
Despite its official status as 'closed', when I hiked the Summey Cove Trail on this day it was in better condition than many 'open' trails I've visited. The route was obvious, blazes are still clearly visible, and what bridges there are remain intact. This could all change in a hurry, however, as nature in the Southern Appalachians has a way of reclaiming trail in a hurry if unused. My recommendation would be to get out on this one as soon as you get a chance. I'm bummed I waited so long to hike this one, its a beauty...and it likely won't be around for much longer. Come along with me and see what I discovered...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.257617, -82.904430
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: HARD
Mileage Hiked: 4.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:50
Trailhead Temp: 45'F Trail Traffic: None!
Min. Elevation: 3,270' Max. Elevation: 3,785'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,100' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 275'
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Summey Cove Trail (blue)