Hiking Trail Review
Summey Cove Trail
the Pisgah Ranger District of 
Pisgah National Forest

Summey Cove Trail is a great medium difficulty trail with worthy water features, including access to the gorgeous Courthouse Falls.

A view down the trail

photo by A. Scott Lavender

Summey Cove is accessible from two roads.  One is Forest Service Road 140 (gravel); the other is N.C. Highway 215.  Since 215 is the primary road, I am considering this the starting point.  Since I am assuming many people will leave a car at the far end, I provide directions to the other side, too.


To Highway 215:  From N.C. Highway 215 at the junction with Highway 64 just outside of Rosman, N.C.(where Headwaters Outfitters is located):  Travel north on 215 for 11.4 miles.  The trail is on the right.  There is a decent sized parking area on the left.

To Forest Service Road 140 (I have always called this “Courthouse Falls Road,” but I do not know if this is correct).  From N.C. Highway 215 at the junction with Highway 64 just outside of Rosman, N.C. (where Headwaters Outfitters is located):  Travel 10.2 miles to FS140.  Turn right onto this road.  Travel 3 miles.  Summey Cove Trail and Courthouse Falls Trail are accessible on the right.  There is a small parking area on the right across the road from the trail access.

Blaze Markings:  blue

Length:  approximately 2.1 miles; exactly 11,199’; note this is slightly longer than the 2 miles given on The Trails Illustrated Pisgah Ranger District map (1996).

Difficulty:  medium; due to elevation change and length.

A cool boulder along the trail that just sits by itself with no other rocks around

photo by A. Scott Lavender

The far end of the trail overlaps with the Courthouse Falls Trail, and this portion is much more travelled than the rest.  The trail has some elevation gain in the first half, climbing through a typical cove forest environment.  It levels out after that, and there are some great watercourses and campsites along the way on the Courthouse Falls end of the trail.  The Falls is technically not on this trail, but is readily accessible from it.  I do not know for whom the trail is named, but there are a number of Summeys who live in the general area.

I hiked this trail in July with my friend, A. Scott Lavender.  We hiked it in the evening, which is a rarity for us, misjudged our time, and ended up walking back out FS140 and up Highway 215 in the dark because we only brought one car.  We did not see anyone on the trail or the gravel road, which surprised us and disappointed us as we were keen on hitching a ride.  We reached the car at 10:30 p.m., which made it a memorable trip.

The Summey Cove Trail:

I began measuring at the edge of 215:

At 130’, the trail messes up at the get-go.  There is a fork and both trails look official.  The left, however, is a dead-end, so go right.

At 210’, a metal box is affixed to a tree.  It declares itself a “Trail Register” and, sure enough, inside was a paper and pen for recording the number in the party and some other basic information.  This is the first box of its type I have encountered in Pisgah.

At 538’, there is a stream crossing.  The water was out of its banks due to heavy rain preceding our hike.

At 1743’, an interesting boulder sits by itself.  There is a large oak tree nearby.

At 1962’, large oak trees grace the trail on the left and right.  This is repeated at 2257’.  The first half-mile of the trail is steep.  You crest the mountain and go down the other side.  This portion of the trail has lots of laurel bush (Rhododendron maximum) and buckberries, a sub-type of blueberry.

The bridge over the largest stream on the trail

photo by A. Scott Lavender

At 3490’, you cross an old roadbed just after a set of wooden steps.

At 4008’, the base of the mountain is reached.

At 4380’, a lovely small rock-bottomed creek must be crossed on a makeshift log bridge.  Just beyond the creek, the trail follows the course of an old roadbed.

At 6434’, a small springhead with the water crossing the trail is surrounded by vine-covered trees.  This area and to 6972’ is in a section of second growth forest.

From 6894’ to 6930’, a spring forks across the trail.

At 6972’, a wooden 4X4 (the lumber size—sorry ATVers) bridge  crosses a spring.

At 7980’, the trail enters a laurel thicket which soon opens up into a broad mountain “holler” to dramatic effect, especially when the light is right.

At 8511’, a creek crosses the trail and stairsteps down to a nice cascade on a larger stream.

At 8630’, a wooden plank bridge crosses a gushing stream—the same one from the previous note.  This is the largest stream crossed on the trail.

At 8814’, there is a large, beautiful campsite on the right.  I am sure this is here due to its proximity to Courthouse Falls and the plethora of creeks that feed Courthouse Creek.

At 9015’, a medium-sized spring crosses the path.  A small patch of wild roses lends a bit of colour in season.

At 9059’, a small plank bridge indicates a creek crossing.

At 9124’, another 4X4 wooden bridge crosses a spring.

At 9699’, an unofficial spur trail leads to a wonderful sight.  Three small waterfalls meet at a creek convergence.  This is well worth the side trek.

At 9939’, the trail to Courthouse Falls plunges down to the right.  This is the beginning of the overlap with Courthouse Falls Trail; they overlap until the end of the trail.  Go see the Falls.  They are spectacular, my favourite waterfall so far.  Also, going to see it allows you to complete Courthouse Falls Trail as well as Summey Cove.   The trail to the Falls is 424’ and is steep with shallow steps.  It is also often wet, making it potentially slippery.  Please be careful.

At 10,099’, an unofficial and very steep trail allows access to Courthouse Falls; not recommended.

At 10,164’, a springhead flows out of a rock to the left.

At 10,509’, an unofficial trail provides access to the top of the falls.

At 10,789’, a small creek crosses the trail, flowing into Courthouse Creek.

At 10,893’, yet another spring crosses the path.

From 10,973’ to 11,199’, a plank bridge covered with hardware cloth crosses a springhead and mushy area.  Several springs cause the general area to be wet.

At 11,199’, the trail ends at the gravel Forest Service Road 140 (a.k.a Courthouse Falls Road).

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