October 5, 2017
Squirrel Gap Trail is unique in Pisgah Forest. Most trails derive from established wagon roads or logging routes from days gone by. Squirrel is a single track path that weaves around mountains. From what I’ve gathered online, it was established under the C.C.C. for hiking. Tangentially, I’ve always been fascinated with the origins of trails. What else is there to think about over a 20 mile hike? Were they used by Native Americans, loggers, hunters? The establishment and naming of said trails is a book ripe for the writing. In my mind’s eye, perchance some old timer use to hunt squirrel on the trail, and hence the name.
This trail is nothing difficult, but at 7.7 miles, it is longer and out of the way. It starts roughly 1.3 miles from Turkey Pen Gap, up the Bradley Creek Trail and runs to Wolf Ford where it meets the South Mills River Trail. It’s popular with mountain bikers, as they can connect with many other trails in the area.
The only other people I met were some Outward Bound type groups, which seeing younger people in the woods is always exciting. The only way to protect these lands is for future generations to value them, and to value something you have to experience it.
About 2 miles from the end of Squirrel, I passed such a group and kept walking. Shortly thereafter I heard a rustling 100 feet ahead of me and just glimpsed a wonderful, youthful black bear scurrying off. I stopped to let this group know about it before heading on.
At Wolf Ford, a wonderful camping spot on the river, I stopped for lunch and then headed back up the mountain to Horse Cove Gap Trail.
Horse Cove bisects Squirrel, with exactly .7 miles to the north and .8 to the south. I did an out and back of the northern section before heading south.
From there it was a simple 5 mile hike out via Cantrell Creek Trail and the South Mills River Trail.
GPS link: https://www.movescount.com/moves/move180108989
Total mileage is 19.2 miles.