Pilot Cove Loop
trail_hike_comments: In what could be one of the most bizarre naming situations in all of Pisgah, this trail is neither in a cove nor a loop. Rather, the best reasoning I can come up with for its name is that this ridge-top *enables* you to hike a loop above Pilot Cove, when combined with the Pilot Cove-Slate Rock trail, which *itself* does not lead to Slate Rock, but does pass through Slate Rock Cove.
Nevertheless, this trail starts on the Pilot Cove-Slate Rock Trail in Pilot Cove not far from the trailhead on FS 1206. It climbs gradually at first, then more steeply as it switchbacks a few times to pick up the top of Forked Ridge. After leaving the creek, it is relatively dry. The trail follows a ridge to the trail's end, through short, gnarled forest trees and thickets of twisted mountain laurel. When you pop out of the forest onto Slate Rock itself, you'll know it, as an expansive view opens up to the southwest, across Pilot Rock Ridge up to the Pisgah Ridge, and down into the Pink Beds and Cradle of Forestry area. Of course, you also have a view of Pilot Mountain in the distance, as if there aren't enough things named Pilot in this area. After a few switchbacks beyond Slate Rock, you'll be on Slate Rock Ridge until the end of the trail. The loop formed by this trail and Pilot Cove-Slate Rock is one of the finest in Pisgah.
If I were the Forest Service, which I'm not, but just bear with me here -- I would rename the entire loop of trail in Pilot Cove (including this one) Pilot Cove Loop, and the one in the next cove over Slate Rock Creek. Much simpler., trail_bike_comments: Confusingly, this trail is neither a loop nor is it really in Pilot Cove - rather it runs along a ridge, Forked Ridge at first and then Slate Rock Ridge. But it does start in Pilot Cove, on the Pilot Cove-Slate Rock trail not far from FS 1206, so that could contribute to the reasoning behind its name. From that junction, this is a steep climb up the ridge, technical in places, to the long traverse through a gnarled forest. You'll pop out onto Slate Rock with its fantastic views, before some switchbacks and the last ridgeline traverse before reaching Pilot Cove-Slate Rock Trail again. Go left to complete the loop within Pilot Cove; right to make a longer loop through Slate Rock Cove.