Riding up the Laurel Mountain trail, this 2000' climb begins as a sidehill trail along the steep slopes of Black Mountain, an extension of Laurel Mountain's main ridge. There are a few very technical spots, but for the most part it's a gradual climb with rocky and rooty areas. The trail passes through several gaps, and gets a little steeper after each one. The forest is mostly mixed hardwoods with an understory of laurels and rhododendrons. Watch for bees, they seem to like the sunny, warm south side of Laurel Mountain. The trail passes by a neat rock cave, at which point there is also a good wintertime view. Portions of the trail just past the cave are level and hard-packed with mossy berms on each side. At the fern-filled Good Enough Gap, there is a connector trail to the left that leads down to the Pilot Cove/Slate Rock trail. Keep right; next is an incredibly steep uphill section that will make even the best of us get off and push. After achieving the ridge, the trail will go downhill some, into the grassy, open woods at Turkey Spring Gap. Another short climb follows, through high elevation ground-cover of grass and galax. The forest at this point contains more northern hardwood species. The Laurel Mountain Connector trail continues uphill on a short but rough climb, the end of which marks the highest point on the ride and the intersection with the Pilot Rock trail, elevation about 4880'. Check your brakes and make a left here to begin a two and a half mile, 1600' vertical drop downhill. It is very rocky and steep, with numerous sharp switchbacks. Boasting incredible views, the trail passes right above huge rock outcroppings and cliffs on its violently bumpy journey down to the valley far below. Beyond the switchbacks, the trail passes through a technical "rock garden", with huge boulders and big rocks piled everywhere. This is, geologically speaking, a "block field," composed of boulders that have broken free and rolled down from the mountainside above due to freeze-thaw forces. Past this the trail gets less rocky and there are many waterbars. Near the bottom of the downhill, the trail will cross an old logging road and pick back up with some more waterbars. Then you'll cross the upper reaches of Bradley Creek on a small log bridge, and intersect FR 1206, which you'll follow all the way back to your car. Make a left here. This gravel road is very scenic, fast, and fun as it follows Bradley Creek downstream. Watch for vehicles. The road breaks away from Bradley Creek and follows a tributary, Yellow Gap Creek, upstream for a moderate climb. There have been landslides in this area, making some impressive scars in the mountainside to your left. This climb will bring you back to the trailhead and starting point.
# Trail Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
# Climb: Climbs Moderately
# Total Elevation Gain: 2400 ft
# Trails/Roads Used: Laurel Mountain, Laurel Mountain Connector, Pilot Rock, FR 1206
# Ride Configuration: Loop comprised of singletrack and a gravel road.
# Starting point: Parking area just past Yellow Gap on FR 1206.
Start Ride uphill on the signed Laurel Mountain trail. The next 6.9 miles are uphill.
2.6 Rich Gap. Huge log across the trail. A faint trail goes right; continue straight.
3.8 Trail passes rock cave.
5.4 Good Enough Gap. Trail comes in from the left; continue straight and uphill on the Laurel Mountain trail. A very steep section follows.
6.5 Unsigned intersection with Laurel Mountain Connector trail. Turn left.
6.9 Signed intersection with the Pilot Rock trail. Turn left; the next 2 1/2 miles are downhill.
9 1/2 Cross old logging road.
9.6 Log bridge and intersection with FR 1206. Turn left.
14.0 Finish; back at trailhead parking area.
Trail description provided by: WNCOutdoors.info network
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