Squirrel Gap is about 13 miles long in its entirety, with the trail varying in technicality from 6 inch rocky goat trail at its center to machined grade reversals at either end. There are a few different ways to ride this trail, and many people ride Squirrel as an out and back, but the best way is probably to do a loop from the Turkey Pen parking lot.
What Makes It Great
The climb up to Squirrel Gap (#147) via Cantrell Creek trail (#148) is rocky and much like the rest of Pisgah, wet and slimy. You will pass the Cantrell Creek lodge on the way up. The majority of the Pisgah Ranger District once belonged to George Vanderbilt, and was used for logging and as private hunting grounds. When the land was purchased, his forestry supervisor convinced him to build outposts all around his 125,000 acre tract of land to keep tabs on his property. The Cantrell Creek lodge was one of many built. In 1979, the USFS dismantled the lodge and helicoptered it in pieces to the Cradle of Forestry where it was rebuilt for visitors.
From the Turkey Pen parking lot, ride down the start of the South Mills River trail (#133). Cross the swinging bridge at the bottom and go left, staying on trail #133. This trail was used as an extraction route for the Carr Lumber Company over a century ago, and is a nice easy warm up on your way towards the ridge. You will stay on this trail for about 30 minutes, paralleling the river on your left. You will cross one more swinging bridge before coming to the chimney, all that remains of the Lodge. Stay straight past the chimney, and you will reach an intersection with Horse Cove trail, stay straight and follow the creek uphill.
After about an hour climb to the top, you will intersect with Squirrel Gap trail (#147). Make a right turn onto Squirrel Gap, the trail from here is narrow and rocky, and will take you to a knob before you begin the long descent back to the river. After descending Squirrel for about 10-15 minutes you will see a trail and fire ring to your left, but make sure to straight. From here on, you will be on Mullinax trail (#326), you will have passed the bottom of Mullinax right after you crossed the swinging bridge at the beginning of the ride. Take Mullinax all the way to the intersection of S. Mills River trail (#133). This will take you back to the first swinging bridge and the parking lot.
Be careful of horses in the Turkey Pen part of Pisgah. There are more trails in this area open to horses than other spots in the forest, and some horses spook easily. Always dismount if you see horses, and wait for the rider to wave you through or for them to pass you.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a moderately difficult 13-mile loop that takes riders over varying terrain, from very thin singletrack to wide machine grade trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Brevard, drive on NC 280 east until you reach the Transylvania/Henderson county line. Turn left here onto Turkey Pen road. This road is a right of way for access to Pisgah, but it passes through private homes. Please respect their privacy and drive slowly. This road is rutted and rocky, and not recommended for small cars or vehicles with low ground clearance.