Thrift Cove Loop (3-28-19)
It would be easy to categorize this loop around the Black Mountain and Thrift Cove Trails into the “filler hike” category among my treks in the Pisgah Ranger District. Granted my main reason for doing it was to check one more hike over my still-substantial list of trips needed to complete all the trails in the area. Yet, despite it being a rather visually unspectacular hike there’s still something to be said for a walk of this type. A simple, straightforward, and relatively easy walk in the woods is sometimes rewarding in its own right. The minimal effort necessary allows for more time and energy to be expended simply enjoying ones surroundings. The subtle beauty of the mountain forest reveals itself in ways that can be missed when one is struggling up a steep rocky slope or trying to push a trek past the ten mile mark. In this the Thrift Cove Loop is a perfect relaxation walk. A way to enjoy the peace of nature without expending effort required on other nearby hikes.
This trip would begin from the southern trailhead for the popular Black Mountain Trail, located just south of the Pisgah Ranger District Visitor Center along U.S. 276. You’ll probably find more bikers here than hikers as the Black Mountain Trail draws more upon two-wheeled visitors than two-legged ones. From the upper end of the parking area the Black Mountain Trail heads into the forest a short distance before reaching its lower junction with the Thrift Cove Trail, which arrives on the right. You can go either direction at this point, the walking effort either way will be about the same. I chose to stay left and continue up the Black Mountain Trail first. For the next mile the path stays alongside the creek draining Thrift Cove, though for the most part it stays hidden from view due to a thick covering of rhododendron. The forest scenery is typical of these relatively low mountain elevations, with rhododendron covering the valley floor and a mix of hardwoods and conifers populating the hillsides above. I was a bit early but I’m certain this is a great area for wildflowers come April and May. After this one mile gradual climb you reach the upper junction of the Black Mountain and Thrift Cove Trails. To continue the loop bear right here on the latter footpath.
The Thrift Cove Trail picks up where the Black Mountain Trail left off, continuing a gradual ascent towards the head of its namesake valley. Soon it rounds the broad northern end of the cove and begins a meandering journey down its eastern side. The climbing soon comes to an end and the path then begins a gradual descent, which will continue all the way back to the trailhead. The forest along this section sports noticeably more conifers…always a big plus in my book. Again there’s not much of note to see along this stretch but the easy grade and wide nature of the footpath makes for an exceptionally relaxing walk. After about two miles the Thrift Cove Trail passes the Grassy Road Trail on the left and then, a short distance later, the Starens Branch Trail as well. Before you know it you’ll be back at the start of the loop where a left turn will return you within a few minutes to your car. Like I said earlier, there’s no way to cast this as a spectacular hike. Even so, it’s its own kind of gem…unassuming and peaceful. So with that said I present a quick walk around the Thrift Cove Loop…I hope you can appreciate its simple beauty as I did. As always, I hope you ENJOY!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.283421, -82.721681
Route Type: Lollipop Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: 3.9 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 40'F Trail Traffic: 5-10 people
Min. Elevation: 2,150' Max. Elevation: 2,900'
Total Vertical Gain: 800' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 205'
Trails Used (blaze color): Black Mountain (white), Thrift Cove (red)