This 11-mile Pisgah loops offers Asheville local’s a vigorous test of fitness and handling prowess reasonably close to town. From the parking lot at the base of Clawhammer Road, the counterclockwise loop begins with a 4-mile doubletrack climb. Turn left at Buckhorn Gap (up some disparaging rock steps) to pick up the singletrack; from here another 400-feet or so of climbing remain to the high point atop Rich Mountain. From here, the trail drops down two hair-raising descents to Club Gap (a good spot to regroup) before continuing on a mild climb up the Buckwheat Knob Trail.
At the Knob’s summit, prepare for a screaming-fast descent of the ridge spine; this stretch tackles a handful of tight switchbacks and semi-advanced handling problems. The descent drops you down to FS-477 at Bennett Gap From here, continue past the gate on the Bennett Gap Trail. Note: This trail is closed to bikes April 15-Oct. 15—summer riders can take the bailout option down FS-477 back to the trailhead.
Continuing south on the Bennett Gap Trail, the route rolls through an open meadow on the ridge spine (with a few fantastic view points) before tackling the most technical stretch of the day: the Devil’s Staircase. In the next 1.5 miles, the trail loses about 1,000 feet over numerous 3-foot drops, high-speed straights, and expansive Pisgah views (if you can stop for them). At Coontree Gap, continue on the Bennett Gap Trail as the route continues a fast descent on a more mellow route back to FS-477 and the parking lot.
TO TRAILHEAD: From Asheville: Travel East on I26 to Exit40. Travel on NC280 towards Brevard. Turn Right onto NC276 2miles before downtown Brevard. Turn Right onto FS477 1 mile past the Pisgah Ranger Station. Turn Right into the horse stables parking lot.
Distance: 11.24 mi
Total Time: none
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This ride starts and finishes at the horse stables on FS477.
Points of Interest
Location: 35.309242, -82.745848
From the parking area on Clawhammer Road, pass through the gate, and begin climbing north on Clawhammer(a steep, 4-mile gravel road) to Buckhorn Gap.
Location: 35.342015, -82.751555
At Buckhorn Gap, turn left onto the Black Mountain Trail (up the steps). From here, the trail climbs singletrack for another 400 feet up to the ridge of Rich Mountain. From the top of the climb, a pair of hair-raising descents drop you down to Club Gap.
Location: 35.340404, -82.775116
Continue straight at Club Gap (a good spot to regroup) towards Buckwheat Knob.
Location: 35.322199, -82.774429
At Bennett Gap, cross FS-477, go past gate onto the Bennett Gap trail. Note: the Bennett Gap Trail is seasonal; it's closed to bikes April 15th through October 15th. Riding in the summer: take FS-4777/Avery Creek Road back down to Clawhammer Road.
Location: 35.306020, -82.759323
Continue on Bennett Gap trail.
Location: 35.303779, -82.754345
Continue past the Coontree Trail, staying on the Bennett Gap Trail.
Location: 35.304969, -82.739582
Turn Left on FS-477 and return to the starting point at the horse stables.
Location: 35.333998, -82.779450
Atop Buckwheat Knob, get ready for some intense ridge-spine descending. The descent off Buckwheat is screaming fast and full of switchbacks and other semi-advanced moves.
Location: 35.316631, -82.766147
After riding atop the ridge past Bennett Gap, prepare for one of the most difficult descents of the day, a stretch known as Devil's Staircase. Rock step-downs, 3 foot drops, high speed straights, and beautiful views abound all the way to Coontree Gap; use caution.
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