Whitewater at the shoals at the Little River crossing.
photo by A. Scott Lavender
Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail in DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina is a moderate-to-difficult level hike with a river crossing and access to Bridal Veil Falls.
I am measuring Corn Mill Shoals Road Trail from the Corn Mill Shoals Access Area (parking area). This is the beginning of the trail for purposes of this hiking trail guide. The Access Area features ample parking and a kiosk with a rather outdated map.
Directions to Corn Mill Shoals Access Area:
There are three ways to access the parking area: one from U.S. 276 in Cedar Mountain, N.C. and the other two from Crab Creek Road. The two from Crab Creek Road are DuPont/Staton Road and Cascade Lake Road. The former should be chosen by those wanting ease and speed; the latter should be chosen if you want to drive a slower gravel road with less ease and more scenery.
From Cedar Mountain, N.C.: Take U.S. Highway 276. Turn onto Cascade Lake Road. Drive 1.8 miles to Corn Mill Shoals Access Area on the left. There is a large parking area.
DuPont Road from Crab Creek Road: Take Crab Creek Road (this road is also known as Kanuga Road in Henderson County should you be coming from Hendersonville). Turn onto DuPont Road. Travel 1.2 miles. DuPont Road ends and Staton Road begins (i.e. DuPont Road becomes Staton Road—this change is due to the road crossing the county line between Henderson and Transylvania Counties). At 5.4 miles, turn left onto Cascade Lake Road. Travel .7 miles to Corn Mill Access Area on the right. This route is considered the primary route.
Cascade Lake Road from Crab Creek Road: Take Crab Creek Road (this road is also known as Kanuga Road in Henderson County should you be coming from Hendersonville). Turn onto Cascade Lake Road. Travel 1.2 miles. The road turns at a confusing junction with Hart Road. Hart Road is paved and goes to the right. Cascade Lake turns to gravel at this point and goes to the left. Remain on Cascade Lake Road. Travel 5 miles; this portion of the road is graveled. Note the nice waterfall at mile 3.0. At the 5 mile mark, the road turns into pavement. Travel .9 miles. Corn Mill Shoals Access Area is on the right. This route is the secondary route and takes significantly longer to travel. It is less than two vehicles wide most of the way, so take your time and be aware. I would not recommend this route except for the interesting features along the way (and, hey, I just like gravel roads), including Cascade Lake itself, lots of forest, and the waterfall mentioned above.
Blaze Markings: unblazed
Length: 2.7 miles one way; 5.4 there and back; note this varies slightly from the length of 2.73 miles given by the Friends of DuPont Forest Trail Map (rev. 2008).
Difficulty: moderate; due to length and a mandatory river crossing (this is the official designation); as it is there and back, I would personally consider this trail to be in the “difficult” category due to the extended practical length and the change in elevation.
Flame azalea bloom
photo by A. Scott Lavender
This is a great hike—not too difficult, long enough to let you know you’ve had a good hike, and it has fantastic water features. There is a short river crossing across the wild-looking Little River and the very worthwhile Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the trail.
There are various trails that connect with this trail so that one could hike all of the trail and come out elsewhere. That said, there is no one way to access the trail from the other side or along its length that seems superior, so I am dealing with this trail as a there and back hike.
I hiked this trail in early April and June with my friend A. Scott Lavender. We broke the trail up into two sessions to avoid the river crossing in cooler weather; in early April, we hiked from Corn Mill Shoals Access Area to the Little River; in June, we crossed the river and hiked the other portion.
Beginning at the edge of Cascade Lake Road:
At 134’, a creek crosses the trail just before a gate.
At 203’, there is a junction with Longside Trail to your left.
At 345’, a small creek tinkles down from the left to cross the trail.
At 563’, there is a junction with Big Rock Trail on the left.
At 2297’, the trial is damp from a (possibly wet-weather) spring. You can hear the Little River from this point to the river itself (and beyond for a distance, of course).
At 2623’, the wet trail ends and Tom Creek flows underneath the trail.
At 2948’, notice the interesting rock formation on the right.
At 3775’, there is a junction with Burnt Mountain Trail on the right.
At 3907’, a Y-junction with the Little River Trail occurs. Take the right fork to remain on Corn Mill Shoals Trail.
At 4700’, the sound of the cascades at the ford at Little River enliven the forest.
At 4955’, a (probably wet-weather) spring is encountered.
At 5135’, there is a pleasant bench at the junction with Burnt Mountain Trail to the right. The trail continues downhill to the river.
At 5615’, the Little River enchants the eyes and ears with a white-water cascade at the ford. It is a wet-crossing with a sign stating it is not recommended to try to cross with horses. There is a horse tie out provided so that equestrians can enjoy the view and sound of the rapids. Be careful crossing; the water is swift. It is recommended to cross above the cascade where the water is less swift. Regardless of whether or not you cross, it is recommended you spend some time here—it is a great place for lunch. Surely this is the shoals that is responsible for the name, yet I found no signs of a mill at this location. This does not mean there was not one in the past.
Due to the underwater algae, grass, and trees reflecting in the water, the river appears green at the shoals. For purposes of measuring for this review, I considered the path to be from the point of the smaller rock on the near side of the river and straight across to the other side, using the nearest crack parallel to the river as the further mark. This distance is just over 36’. Going straight across, however, puts the hiker in the forceful current and is potentially unsafe. I urge you to go a few feet upstream where the current is not bad and you can keep your footing.
Light plays along the path of the Corn Mill Shoals Trail.
photo by A. Scott Lavender
At 5651’, the trail resumes on the other side of the river. I began at the first crack that is parallel to the river on the rock that is part of the trail. The trail forks around a clump of rocks and plants; I took the rightmost. The trail continues into the wood. There are tons of galax and laurel here.
At 5876’ to 5896’, there is an interesting rock held up by a tree on the right followed by a tree held up by boulders on the left.
At 6343’, there is a junction with the Shoals Trail to the right. Notice the old road bed (part of the Corn Mill Shoals Road in the past?) going straight upslope. The trail plays hide-and-seek with this roadbed for quite a ways.
At 6431’ and sporadically thereafter, a number of flame azaleas brighten up the forest in blooming season. This area also hosts a literal carpet of ferns, bringing an appreciated magical effect to the forest.
At 6868’, an interesting pair of boulder to the left shows off a flourishing drapery of moss and fungus.
At 7322’, begins a man-made path of stepping stones going uphill. The river can be heard quite clearly from here. There are two large boulders partway up the path culminating in an exposed rock trail.
At 7483’, there is a horse tie-out to the left.
At 7901’, a mostly flora-covered rock face is the trail. This is mystical, and the trail is almost the only exposed portion, though it peeks out here and there along the way until its ending at 8136’.
At 8783’, there is a junction with the Laurel Ridge Trail to the right (though it seems to go straight ahead from this perspective as the CMS Trail turns to the left to plunge down the mountainside).
At 9384’, another exposed rock area of trail begins, going until 9724’, then resuming from 9770’ to 9896’, where it meets a gravel path.
At 10,242’, a stream flows underneath the path through a plastic culvert and playfully follows the path for some distance.
At 11,390’, the trail opens up at a large double power line slash. Though the power lines are rather unattractive, the area beneath is kept low so that there is a sort of upland meadow feel to the area if you don’t look up too high and glimpse the lines. The immediate switch from medium-to-thick forest to meadow creates a feeling of oddness; sort of a wicked beauty.
At 11,421’, the Bridal Overlook Trail takes off to the left just shy of halfway through the slash.
At 11,510’, a road under the power lines crosses the trail.
At 11,798’, another stream passes beneath the path in a plastic culvert.
At 11,927’, there is a junction with the Shelter Rock Trail to the right.
At 12,908’, the trail diverts around an interesting rock formation.
At 13,062’and to 13,220’, there are large rocks to both sides of the trail.
At 13,527’, a rock, exposed rock, and log bridge crosses a dip in the trail.
At approximately 13,700’ and until the end of the trail, the uplifting sound of Bridal Veil Falls can be heard. This is a wonderful ending to a great hike.
At 14271’, the trail ends in a beautiful area of holly trees just before Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are not on this trail, but are only a short jaunt from the trail. Definitely take this opportunity to rest and view the falls, either from the trails or from the overlook platform just before them.
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