Farlow Gap is often touted as one of the toughest mountain bike trails in the Pisgah National Forest. The climb to the top is a brutal, five-mile mix of gravel road and doubletrack. The downhill is incredibly rocky and steep, and very technical.
What Makes It Great
From the NC State Fish Hatchery, turn left out of the parking lot onto the main road and pedal on the pavement for about five minutes and you will come to a gate on you left. This is the Davidson River trail (#650). Stay on it for one mile. It parallels the Davidson River with nice views of the water from above.At the end of the trail, you will turn left onto pavement, which immediately becomes gravel after you cross a bridge. This is FS 475, and will take you past the Cove Creek campground on your right. Stay on 475 for about three miles and you will come to Gloucester Gap, a four way intersection. To your right, FS 225 heads up to Farlow. The gate for this road may or may not be open, but will be open to bikes regardless. Begin the four mile gravel climb to the top of 225. This should take most people a little longer than an hour, but it has an average of a 7% uphill grade and can take longer.Once you reach the gate at the top, ride through it and you will begin the last leg up to Farlow.
Through the gate, the doubletrack becomes the same as the Art Loeb trail, a thru-hike trail that is hiking only. This section should be about a 15 minute climb for most, and when the trail enters a clearing, you have reached Farlow Gap. The bike trail heads right, down into the cove and the hiking trail continues uphill. There is a sign for Farlow, but make sure you pay attention at this intersection.Farlow Gap trail heads downhill to the right, and you pick up speed quickly. The trail becomes loose and rocky, and becomes fall line into a wide open rock garden with no real line. Many people wind up riding to the left of the rock garden, as their speed forces them into that line. From the top of Farlow, to it's end expect more rocks and challenging moves the whole way down the trail. Farlow crosses a few creeks spilling down from the Blue Ridge Parkway above, and when the water is high you must be careful crossing the rocks. They are rideable, but use caution and do not exceed your skill level.
The trail has some climbing in the middle section, before the final plunge to Daniel Ridge trail (#105).At this intersection, you can opt to follow the right leg of Daniel Ridge, or continue climbing and take the left leg. If you've had your fill after Farlow Gap and want to head out, take the right and follow the creek down. This downhill is more loose rocks and roots, and ends at a gravel doubletrack. Head left for about a mile down the doubletrack and make a right over a large wooden bridge. From here head through the gate and make a left on FS 475. You will have passed this parking lot on your way up to FS 225. Make the right onto Davidson River trail (#650) and take it back to the fish hatchery.If you have a little left in your tank and want to take the left leg of Daniel Ridge trail, it climbs for about another twenty minutes up more loose rocks and narrow side cut trail. This descent is more high speed than technical, and should take an additional 35 minutes. When you reach the doubletrack at the end, there is a large waterfall to your left just up the hill. When you're ready to head home, take the doubletrack down the hill and cross the large wooden bridge back to the fish hatchery.
The trail crosses enough water to re-fill bottles, but a filtration system or iodine tabs are strongly recommended when drinking from spring heads and streams in Pisgah National Forest. As always, make sure you carry spare tubes and tools with you. No horse back riding is permitted on any of the trail surrounding the fish hatchery, so you can let your guard down about them.
Who is Going to Love It
This is an extremely difficult trail and only expert riders should attempt. That being said, if you've got the skill and stamina, you're looking at a really rewarding mountain bike ride.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The hatchery is located at 1401 Fish Hatchery Rd, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768.