Hiking Trail Review
Starens Branch Trail
in the
Pisgah Ranger District
of the
Pisgah National Forest

This short connector trail could be made into a partial loop.

Trail view

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 1.1 miles to a road on the right just before the Pisgah Ranger Station.  Note there are two parking areas on the right before the Station.  You want the second; it is beside the maintenance building for Shenck Job Corps.  Turn right into the parking area.  The point from where I began measuring is at the back of the parking lot where a small gravel trail connects with the trail coming from the first parking area.

Blaze Markings:  This trail does not appear on the map, so I don’t know if it should have blazes, but I did not see any when I hiked it.

Length:  approximately .2 mile; exactly 1012 feet.  This trail is not directly accessible from either end.  Thus, the there and back distance is .4 mile or exactly 2024 feet for the trail itself.  Further, a portion of access road to Thrift Cove Trail and from thence to the beginning of Starens Branch Trail is necessary.  The access road is 859 feet one way or 1718 there and back.  The portion of the Thrift Cove Trail is 1502 feet one way or 3004 feet there and back.  Thus the total distance is approximately .6 miles or exactly 3373 feet one way and approximately 1.2 miles or exactly 6746 feet there and back.  I recommend making the trail a partial loop by adding the 645 feet of the Black Mountain Trail back to the junction with Thrift Cove Trail.  Please see the map or this site to piece this together.  

Difficulty:  moderate; this is the official trail designation.   


Trail sign

photo by A. Scott Lavender

This trail is essentially a connector between Thrift Cove Trail and Black Mountain Trail.  I suspect it was an unofficial trail that has been converted to an official trail.  It does not appear on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map (rev. 2009) that I usually use because it is too new.   It is a steep trail, but it is downhill from this end.  The name is a misnomer as the trail neither begins, ends, nor travels by Starens Branch, which is on the other side of the ridge from the trailhead.  The watercourse parallels Grassy Road Trail for much of the trail’s length.

Again, this trail review contains the following: the access road, the initial portion of Thrift Cove Trail, and Grassy Road Trail.

The Access Road:

I began measuring distance at the gravel trail at the back of the parking area.


At 37’, there is a fork in the path.  Right goes to the other parking area.  Go left.

At 859’, the Black Mountain Trail goes to the left.  The road becomes Thrift Cove Trail.  Remain on the road/trail.


Thrift Cove Trail:

I began measuring at the trail sign.

At 1448’, the Staamns Branch Trail (previously part of Sycamore Cove Trail) is on the right.  There is a sign indicating “To Grassy Road Trail.”  Go straight for about 50’, remaining on Thrift Cove Trail.

At 1502’, Starens Branch Trail goes down the ridge to the left to meet up with the Black Mountain Trail.  Turn left onto it.


Starens Branch Trail

The trail is sloped nearly the entire length.

At 1012’, the trail ends at a junction with Black Mountain Trail.


Tree formation along the path

photo by A. Scott Lavender

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