FATMAP difficulty grade
Located halfway between Mills River and Brevard, locals affectionately refer to this area as "Turkey Pen".
Encompassed within the 500,000+ acre Pisgah National Forest, this pocket of trails provides unique flora and fauna atypical of the rest of the forest.
Just beyond this loop, the South Mills River carved its way through the mountains, creating a topography reminiscent of a gorge.
Dense fields of mountain laurel and rhododendron also blanket the area, making it popular among outdoor adventurers.
This loop is one of the best ways to sample Turkey Pen and begins at the Turkey Pen trailhead at the end of Turkey Pen Road.
The drive up the road is unpaved and narrow, and should not be attempted by larger vehicles or trailers unless you've been up it before. This route runs well in either direction, though counter-clockwise would be considered slightly easier.
This way, you'll begin with brief descent before climbing steadily along a former roadbed.
To your left, the South Mills River provides a relaxing setting for a trail run.
After a couple of miles, this loop takes an abrupt left into an area frequented by campers.
The Wagon Road Gap Trail passes through the clearing then climbs its way to a ridge.
A mountain stream drains adjacent to the trail so expect to get your feet wet after recent rains.
Upon reaching the ridge, take a left and follow the Turkey Pen Gap Trail back as it traverses a winding ridge.
Several stretches can be quite steep and three points of contact may be needed at times.
Some partial views to the south and east also present themselves, particularly in the winter months.