Asheville, NC: Creekside Loop

Looking for a mellow weekend with swimming options? Hit up this gentle, 10.4-mile loop in the Mills River area of Pisgah National Forest.
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Looking for a mellow weekend with swimming options? Hit up this gentle, 10.4-mile loop in the Mills River area of Pisgah National Forest.

I thought my backpacking days were on hold. I was five months pregnant, and taking care of my midsection was hard enough without puffing up a Therm-a-Rest or sweating up a steep trail. But when an opportunity arose that was too good to pass up (being a BACKPACKER Reader Leader! Hello!), I threw my reservations aside and said to my husband, “Heck—let’s do it!”

We picked the gentle 10.4-mile Creekside Loop in the Mills River area of Pisgah National Forest. It has minimal climbing, many opportunities to dabble toes in the water, and enough camping options that we could tweak our itinerary if we needed to.

From the Turkeypen trailhead north of Brevard, take the Mullinax Trail through hemlock and rhododendron over 3,000-foot Mullinax Gap to the Laurel Creek Trail. This tracks the creek for 1.6 miles to the Bradley Creek Trail junction, a good place to camp if you don’t want to push it. Take Bradley Creek to a left on the Riverside Trail. There are a half-dozen easy creek crossings in this stretch (nice for my swollen ankles). We camped riverside at mile 8.6, in a hemlock-shaded spot with a fire ring.

The next day is an easy 2.4 miles to the trailhead, where we high-fived for getting in one more trip before becoming new parents (to a girl!).

Map Pisgah Ranger District ($12, natgeomaps.com)

Contact (828) 257-4200; fs.usda.gov/nfsnc

-Text and mapping by Emily Marten

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 16.7

Waypoints

CRK001

Location: 35.342407, -82.659225

The route begins at Turkeypen Gap. Take the Mullinax Trail through hemlock and rhododendron.

CRK002

Location: 35.343888, -82.665113

Cross a swing bridge over South Fork Mills River.

CRK003

Location: 35.343625, -82.665854

Turn left to begin a clockwise loop.

CRK004

Location: 35.34394, -82.673621

At this point, the trail swings north and travels toward Mullinax Gap.

CRK005

Location: 35.352211, -82.675812

Keep left at this trail fork south of Mullinax Gap.

CRK006

Location: 35.355491, -82.677398

Mullinax Gap

CRK007

Location: 35.357941, -82.683749

Turn right at this 3-way and hike north.

CRK008

Location: 35.362596, -82.682548

Optional: Turn left to reach a potential campsite.

CRK009

Location: 35.363681, -82.683792

Campsite

CRK010

Location: 35.36865, -82.668214

Turn right at the T-junction onto Bradley Creek Trail. The trail curves to the south.

CRK011

Location: 35.358676, -82.658

Turn left at the 3-way junction onto Riverside Trail. Ahead, there are a half-dozen easy creek crossings.

CRK012

Location: 35.355911, -82.643108

Turn right (south) at the T-junction.

CRK013

Location: 35.353846, -82.649975

This spot is too dense and steep for camping.

CRK014

Location: 35.347432, -82.657603

This hemlock-shaded spot with a fire ring is a good spot to set up camp. Next day: Follow this trail back to CRK002, then continue straight to reach the trailhead.

Swing Bridge

Location: 35.343835, -82.665349

The first and only bridge on the entire loop.

Wooded Trail

Location: 35.359306, -82.683706

Bradley Creek Trail

Location: 35.368615, -82.667828

Butterflies

Location: 35.358396, -82.651284

A great-spangled fritillary and four diana fritillary butterflies enjoying some knapweed along the trail.

Campsite

Location: 35.347441, -82.657474

A quiet campsite by the river