Hiking Trail Review
Andy Cove Nature Trail
in the
Pisgah Ranger District
Pisgah National Forest

This is a great trail any time of year.  Easy access, fun features, and an unusual forest type make this hike a winner.

A special sign for a special trail

photo by A. Scott Lavender


From Pisgah Forest, N.C.:  Take U.S. Highway 276 to the entrance to the Pisgah National Forest near the intersection of Highways 280, 276, and 64.  Drive 1.3 miles to the nearest entrance to the Pisgah Ranger Station.  Turn right into the parking area.  The point from where I began measuring is behind the station at the junction with the Exercise Trail.

Blaze Markings:  none

Length:  approximately .5 miles; exactly 2871 feet.  This trail can be made a loop by adding 455 feet of the Exercise Trail from the far end of Andy Cove back to the beginning of the trail.  Otherwise, you will need to backtrack if you want to end up back at the parking area.  Adding the portion of the Exercise Trail makes the trail approximately .6 miles; exactly 3326 feet.  Note the distance for the Andy Cove Nature Trail differs from the .7 miles listed on the Trails Illustrated Pisgah Ranger District trail map published by National Geographic (rev. 2003).  

Difficulty:  easy; this is the official trail designation. 

The trail is known for its boardwalks

photo by A. Scott Lavender

I hiked this trail in early May with my friend, Scott Lavender.  It was a great day to hike, with a nice temperature and good sunlight.  This trail is very popular due to its easy-going manner, proximity to the entrance of the Forest, and the presence of the destinations/features of the Pisgah Ranger Station, the suspension bridge, and an outdoor amphitheatre.  School kids have field trips here.  This is a great family trail, and it is for foot traffic only. 

The trail climbs up the side of the mountain to just above the Ranger Station.    There is a lot of laurel (Rhododendron maximum) along the trail and a nice view of the flats along the Davidson River below.  Spring was in full session when we hiked it.  The sun was playing through the thin leaves of the abundant sycamores in the area, creating a light and bright mystique to the forest.

I began measuring distance at the junction with the Exercise Trail at the sign for the Andy Cove Nature Trail across the parking lot from the ranger station. 

English ivy looks good everywhere, including here

photo by A. Scott Lavender

Andy Cove Nature Trail:

At 293’, there is a set of wooden landscape timbers with earth in them functioning as steps.

At 390’, there is an observation deck with a partial view of the ranger station during the non-leaf season and the Exercise Trail below.

From 404’-720’, at the end of the observation deck, the trail is a wooden walkway with rails over a steep slope. 

At 500’, a sign entitled Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains shows some of the more common birds you might see during your hike, including one of my favourites, the Carolina Chickadee.  This bird is graceful, and I like its soft song.

At 872’, a wooden bridge with rails crosses a small gully.  There are railroad tie steps on the far side.

From 953’ to 1015’, a suspension bridge crosses a larger gully.  This is probably the coolest feature of the trail.  You can bounce and get a good view of the surrounding forest at the same time.

At 1508’, an interesting curved bridge—curving with the contours of the trail—goes around a mostly underground branch.

At 1702’, wooden steps lead down with a bridge crossing a decent sized stream, which I believe is called Andy Cove Branch, just after.  An unofficial trail goes upstream on the near side.  Go straight.

At 1876’, a rustic amphitheatre is set into the bank to the right.

At 2018’, a wooden bridge crosses a feeder creek for the previous stream.

At 2163’, the first of two wooden sets of steps begins.  The second leads to the wooden walkway.

At 2466’, there is a bridge across the stream.  Beside it is a bench across the stream from an intriguing tree.  An English-ivy-covered construction that appears to me to be a defunct fish run is barely visible beside the bench.  There is an unofficial trail to the awesome tree on the far side of the short bridge.

At 2605’, there is an unofficial trail to the right leading to the Exercise Trail.

At 2871’, the trail ends at the junction (fork) with the Exercise Trail. 

Video of the Suspension Bridge

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