Pilot Cove - Slate Rock Loop hike
It's not too hard to find great views around here, all long the Blue Ridge Parkway or on popular hikes along Hwy 276 through Pisgah National Forest like John Rock and others, for example. It's a little tougher to get to a "wow" view that also gets you away from the throngs of fellow vista-hunters, but fortunately Henderson County does have some great options. The Pilot Cove-Slate Rock hike is one good choice for those not afraid of a little hill climbing.
“The highlight, though is the view from Slate Rock itself, which offers a stunning 210-or-so-degree view of Pilot Rock and Mountain and some great leaf color in the fall.”
This hike is about four miles long and is in the North Mills River Recreation Area of the Pisgah National Forest, which is accessed via North Mills River Road (the one that runs by the big Ingles supermarket in Mills River on Highway 280 - more details on finding it below). You'll need to drive several miles along a dirt/gravel forest road to get to the trail head, but unless conditions change it's fine for regular cars. It's quite a pretty drive too, much of it along Bradley Creek, which has some really nice primitive camp sites.
You will want to wear your hiking boots or waterproof shoes, since at least when I (and our two shelties Tanner and Abby) took this hike on a fall afternoon the start of the trail was pretty wet and muddy, though only for 50 yards or so and the rest of the trail was basically
dry. Soon after starting up the trail you'll take a turn to the right and start heading uphill. I'd call it a moderate climb, not terrifically challenging but you'll know you're climbing a mountain. Only maybe a quarter or less of the total loop is seriously uphill, the rest is along the ridge or descending more gradually back to the start.
The trail itself is forested and shady, and if you go counterclockwise the way we did you'll get
the uphill out of the way first and enjoy a nice amble back to the car along Slate Rock Creek at the end. The highlight, though is the view from Slate Rock itself, which offers a stunning 210-or-so-degree view of Pilot Rock and Mountain and some great leaf color in the fall (this year wasn't the best leaf season, alas). The loop is pretty easy to follow, and it took me and the dogs a bit less than two hours to do the whole thing (not including stopping for a while to enjoy the view!).
How to Find It
The map link below is to the spot on Yellow Gap Road where you'll park and start the hike. It's about an hour of total driving from downtown Hendersonville, and about seven miles (half an hour at forest road speed) from the North Mills River Recreation Area campground. Remember to have plenty of gas, you can fill up at the stations on Hwy 280 just before you turn onto North Mills River Road.
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/SvSneufMCs82