Sycamore Cove Trail -- 2,280'

Sycamore Cove Loop (11-23-18)

The Sycamore Cove Loop Trail is a pleasant 3.5-mile footpath located just inside the entrance to Pisgah National Forest along U.S. 276 near Brevard. The trail offers a nice introduction to the types of environments commonly found in the lower elevations of the North Carolina Mountains. The path is well-marked, easy to follow, and relatively easy in difficulty. It’s lack of eye-popping scenery means that it’s not quite as commonly used as other nearby forest trails but, to me, that means it’s quite nice in that it provides a low-key, simple, walk-in-the-woods type of hike. Along the way the path follows bubbling creeks, passes through dense rhododendron groves, and winds along hillsides covered in a mix of hardwoods and pines. Essentially, it offers a little taste of all the simple pleasures the forest offers in these parts. If you want to spend a relatively easy couple of hours out walking in the National Forest this might just be the hike for you.

Technically the Sycamore Cove Loop Trail begins and ends from U.S. 276 but there is precious little parking along the busy highway. A nicer place to start, I think, is over at the Art Loeb Trailhead located at the entrance to the Davidson River Campground. This adds an additional ¾-mile walking to the hike but it’s a flat mile and one that follows the banks of the scenic Davidson River most of the way providing some bonus scenery. Walking the Art Loeb for perhaps a quarter-mile to where it makes a right turn to cross the river, a short connector trail continues straight ahead a short distance more to U.S. 276 where the Sycamore Cove Loop begins just across the way. The north end and south end of the loop are actually separated by a short stretch of 276. Which direction you want to hike the loop in will depend on whether or not you want to make the short walk along the road at the beginning or end of the hike. If you choose a clockwise direction simply headed across the highway to pick up the trail on the far side as I did in this hike. Now on the Sycamore Cove Loop itself the trail follows a small marshland for a short ways before turning uphill to begin its ascent of the valley of Starens Branch, a tiny stream the path will reach shortly. The forest here is typical of these elevations in the region with tall hardwood trees standing above a dense understory of mixed rhododendron and other shrubs. Soon the trail crosses Starens Branch for the first time, passes a small but scenic unnamed cascade, and reaches its lower junction with the Grassy Road Trail. At this point the trail keeps climbing up the west side of the valley with Starens Branch soon left far below. Less than a mile later the path crosses the stream again, enters a small grove of pine, and then reaches the upper junction with the aforementioned Grassy Road Trail. The climb is all but over as the trail now follows the contours of the ridge and soon begins a long gradual descent to the south. The trail ducks in and out of small coves carpeted with tufts of hill cane before reaching the narrow valley running down the west side of Johnson Mountain. The loop uses this narrow valley to complete its circuit back to the highway. Along this final descent the trail makes numerous crossings of the tiny stream which drains the valley…which is probably good information to keep in mind if the weather has been overly wet at the time of your visit. Before long the Sycamore Cove Loop emerges once again from the woods at its south junction with U.S. 276. A quick, less than quarter-mile, jaunt north alongside the highway closes the loop and brings you back to the spur path back to the Art Loeb and the parking lot.

Overall this is rather unremarkable hike. There’s no stand-out natural feature to be discovered here. Like I said earlier this is a better path for those simply wanting to get out for a simple stroll in the woods without involving anything overly strenuous or rugged. If that’s all you desire, then this trail is a perfect choice. So with that said, then, I present to you a hike of the Sycamore Cove Loop Trail…as always…ENJOY!!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.282047, -82.721629


Route Type:  Lollipop                 Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzoldt Rating:  5.40 )

Hike Length:  4.2 miles               Hike Duration:  2:00

Trailhead Temp:  35'F                 Trail Traffic:  5-10 people

Min. Elevation:  2,150'                  Max. Elevation:  2,750'

Total Vertical Gain:  600'            Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  143'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Art Loeb (white), Sycamore Cove Loop (blue)


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