Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate

Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
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Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate

Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate

The Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Campgrounds
  • Picnicking
  • Sliding Rock
  • Water Falls
  • Wldflowers

    The Pisgah National Forest has loads of activities to enjoy. People sometimes come in and ask about what there is to do in the forest. The answer is that you can picnic, camp, hike, climb, fish, swim, slide, float, hunt, bike, mountain bike, ride your horse, rent a horse, learn about forestry, find waterfalls, sightsee, or do nothing but relax.

One thing we would strongly recommend is that people do some research ahead of visiting the area. We are always amazed at people that arrive on a Friday afternoon in July with no idea where they are going to camp.

The Pisgah Ranger District has some of the prettiest country and views in western North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the district from near Asheville west to Balsam Knob. The Blue Ridge Parkway is actually a sliver of land administered by the National Park Service. The Park boundries vary some, but are generally about a couple hundred feet on either side of the parkway. The National Park land has some different regulations than the forest land - check with the Park Service before hunting or camping on National Park Land.

There are some great things to experiences on the Parkway. Stop by or stay at the Pisgah Inn near Mount Pisgah, climb to the summit of Mount Pisgah, or camp at the Mount Pisgah Campground. Stop by several of the Parkway overlooks to experience the views. Climb to the top of Devils Courthouse for great views.

Biking in the Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah District has many miles of mountain biking trails and forest service roads that combine to make for great mountain biking. In addition, highways 215, 276, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are challenging road bike routes. Be careful on the roadways and be sure to use lights, especially in the parkway tunnels.

Mountain biking in the Pisgah is great, but you need to be aware that some mountain bike trails are seasonal, and their use is restricted to the winter months when hikers are not as likely to be on the trails. Seasonal trails are open to mountain bikers from October 15th to April 15th. You are free to mountain bike on designated trails and forest service roads unless they are signed as closed to biking.

There are several good mountain bike trails very near to the forest entrance near the Ranger station/Visitor Center, and the Davidson River Campground. These include the North Slope Trail (seasonal) behind the Davidson River Campground, the Sycamore Cove Trail, and the Black Mountain Trail.

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Organized Campgrounds in the Pisgah National Forest

Within the Pisgah Ranger District there are five family campgrounds. These have varying amenities, and have some reservable campsites. Reservations for these campsites are made through the website The National Forest Campgrounds are the Davidson River Campground, North Mills River Campground, Lake Powhatan, and Sunburst Campground. The National Park Service operates the Mount Pisgah Campground near the famous Pisgah Inn. The links from the campgrounds will take you to the reservation site. Sunburst advanced reservations are not available. In addition, the campgrounds that offer reservations do not reserve ALL their spaces in advance - many are first-come non-reserved spots.


Free Roadside Camping in the Pisgah National Forest:

The Forest Service maintains about sixty roadside campsites within the district. These sites are located on the gravel roads in the district and are identified with a campsite (tent) sign. The only amenities you can expect to find on these sites are a tent pad and fire ring. Most of these sites are located near a water source, but you must treat or filter the water if you are going to drink it. If you want to do roadside camping make certain you have selected a legal roadside site - there are unauthorized roadside locations where people have previously camped. Yellow signs warn people that "No Camping" is allowed there. You risk getting a ticket if you camp in these spots. Roadside campsites can be occupied for up to 14 days in a 30 day period. There is no registration process to camp there. They are first-come first-served camp sites.

Here is our opinion about these campsites. They do not always make for a wholesome family camping experience. There are few amenities, they are heavily used, and they are not always clean and free of trash. Forest Service personnel do not provide a trash pick-up service at these sites so they can be quite messy if the campers do not dispose of their trash properly. These sites, due to their proximity to roads, are easy targets for thieves who can steal your camping gear. If you use these sites, do not leave items of value in an unoccupied camp. The use of alcohol is banned in some roadside areas, such as Avery Creek Road..

Dispersed Camping in the Pisgah National Forest:

Dispersed camping for hikers is one of the greatest recreational opportunities available in the Pisgah National Forest. Individuals can camp in the forest, without a permit or registration, almost anywhere they wish to. There are restrictions on where to camp, but they are few, and with nearly 400 miles of hiking trails available in the Pisgah District alone, it is a hiking and camping destination for many people. Requirements are minimal - like you need to camp 1000 feet from a road. Within the Pisgah Districts two Wilderness areas - the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness Areas - group sizes are restricted to 10 people, and campfires are prohibited. Violations are subject to tickets and fines. A word of advice here - within the wilderness areas the trails are not blazed or signed, so a good map and compass and map reading skills are a must. People do get lost in these areas.

With Dispersed camping people are requested to adhere to "Leave no Trace" camping practices. Click the link to learn more about this initiative.

While there is no camper registration or permit required, hikers and campers may fill out an itinerary at the Pisgah Ranger Station before they depart on their outing. This is a passive system where you leave information about your group, your vehicle, your trail route, etc. Should you fail to arrive home on your intended date, your family can contact the Ranger Station and we will know where to begin looking for you. If you file an itinerary we ask that you call us or stop by to let us know you are out of the forest okay so we can clear our records.

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Fishing in the Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah District of the Pisgah National Forest is home to one of the best trout streams in the United States - the Davidson River. There are also numerous smaller streams in the area that offer almost unlimited trout fishing opportunities. People come from all over the country to fish here. The Davidson River is beautiful to fish - shallow enough to wade in many places, and wide enough to keep from snagging your line in brush and tree limbs along the shore.

Another place to fish in the Pisgah District is at Lake Powhatan. Close to Asheville, Lake Powhatan is stocked with Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout. It has a fishing pier for easy access to the lake. It's a daily fee area.

The people at the desk at the Pisgah District Visitors Center are not fishing experts. Fishing Regulations are handled by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. In the past the visitors center would receive copies of the fishing and hunting regulations to hand out to visitors. This is no longer the case, so contact the commission in advance of your trip - their web site has a place where you can request that a copy of the regulations be mailed to you. You can also download a copy of the regulations using the links below.

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Hiking in the Pisgah National Forest

One of the greatest features of the Pisgah National Forest is the availability of great hiking and backpacking opportunities. We will be talking only about the Pisgah District here - but the Pisgah District has over 400 miles of trails, so there are plenty of hiking opportunities here.

One of our most frequently asked questions at the Ranger Station is "Where is a good hike to take? The answer is not so easy, and we almost always have to ask a few questions in return: How long a hike? How strenuous a hike? What would you like to see? We also take some clues from how people are dressed, shoes they are wearing, time of day, weather conditions, etc. We really try and get people out on a hike they will enjoy, and which will not wear them out. The hike will only be good if it suits the weakest member of the group. Bring along the Ten Essentials for hikers. See list at bottom of this page.

All that being said - here are some of our favorite hikes and hiking locations as well as some comments on some other hikes. We've put them in alphabetical order. Posted near the bottom of the page are some hiking essentials you should have before attempting a hike. We also highly recommend that you have a Trail Map. We never go out on a hike without ours, and we almost always end up referring to it. Pisgah maps can be purchased at the Ranger Station, online, and at the Cradle of Forestry and local outfitters.

Cat Gap Loop Trail including the John Rock Summit Trail. Our personal trail rating is a 5 out of 5 - one of our favorite hikes in the district. We recommend this one a lot, and it is a very popular Pisgah hike. We do the loop clockwise, leaving from the end of the parking lot at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. The hike is moderate. We like the hike for the diverse types of plants and trees encountered and the super view of Looking Glass Rock seen from the rock face of John Rock (see photo below). Maps show the Cat Gap Loop distance to be 4.4 miles, and the John Rock Trail to be 1.8 miles. Taking the Cat Gap Bypass knocks a little off the hike. It will end up being almost 6 miles total.

Coontree Loop Trail. Our personal trail rating is a 1 out of 5. Most people hike this trail in a counter-clockwise direction. We see little reason to do the trail. It's fairly strenuous (moderate on the maps) and offers few views - just a wooded trail hike. It weighs in at 3.7 miles.

Daniel Ridge Loop Trail. Our personal trail rating is a 4 out of 5. We like to do the loop in a clockwise direction. We like this hike because it starts out with a crossing of the Davidson River and then it parallels the river for a while where there are several nice cascades and the remains of an old hatchery. It then climbs to a ridgetop, turns right, and descends through woods until it emerges near the top of Daniel Ridge Falls (also called Jackson Falls and Tom Spring Falls). From the top of the falls a switchback leads to a Forest Service Road for the return to the parking lot. At the bottom of the switchback go to the left for a little ways to view the falls from below. Offering nice river views and a decent falls, this is one of our favorite hikes. We'd call it a moderate hike. The maps show it as 4 miles, but we think it is a little longer. We're not sure the measurement is from the start of the actual trail, or from the parking lot.

Pink Beds Loop Trail. Our personal trail rating is a 4 out of 5. This popular loop can be either a 3 or a 5 mile loop that is rated easy. There are few hills, and that also means no views. The shorter hike makes use of the Barnett Branch trail that bisects the pink beds loop. The Barnett Branch cut-off has a wonderful boardwalk across the creek. The biggest issue with the trail is the frequent activity from beavers which can cause wet spots or even flooding. As of July, 2011 the entire loop is open with some muddy spots on the south portion of the loop between Barnett Branch and the picnic area. Some log walking or hopping is required - bringing a walking stick for balance would be a good idea. The beavers do create some pretty ponds though, and it is usually a good flower hike. Update July 29th, 2011. Yesterday a visitor reported that the southern section of the Pink Beds Trail between the picnic area and the Barnet Branch is again flooded. Chalk another one up for the beavers.

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Enjoy a Picnic in the Pisgah National Forest. Reserve a Picnic Shelter.

The Pisgah district has numerous places for a family picnic. The most popular picnic area is Sycamore Flats, near the forest entrance on highway 276 near Brevard. This picnic area has picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. It is next to the Davidson River and is one of the places where many people splash in the river or end their tubing float. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Sycamore Flats. A picnic shelter is available. It can be rented for $50 per day. If it is not rented it is available on a first-come first-served basis. See rental information below.

Another popular picnic area is the Coontree Picnic area on highway 276 about 5 miles from the Brevard entrance. Tables, grills, and restrooms are available. There is a popular swimming spot in the Davidson River across from the picnic area. This site does not have a picnic shelter.

A third picnic area is the Pink Beds picnic area. This picnic spot has a picnic shelter that is reservable for $50 like Sycamore flats is. The site is located about 11.5 miles from the Brevard entrancs on highway 276, just above the Cradle of Forestry/Forest Discovery Center. See rental information below.

There are several other picnic areas for groups along highway 276 between Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are also numerous picnic tables at pull-offs along the highway near Looking Glass Creek.

There is also an often-overlooked picnic area with a shelter at Stony Fork on highway 151 on the road to Candler north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of the remote location relative to the Ranger Station this area is somewhat neglected and should be visited in person before you make plans to picnic there with your group.

Pisgah Sycamore Flats and Pink Beds Picnic Shelter Rental Information.

To rent one of these shelters you need to do the following:

1. To check on picnic shelter availability call the Ranger Station at 828-887-3265 between the hours of 9:00 and Noon and 1:00 to 4:30 Monday through Wednesday and on Friday. On Thursday the hours are from 9:00 to Noon only.

2. If available, you will need to make arrangements to bring either $50 cash or a personal check to the Ranger Station to pay for the reservation. You will receive a receipt and form showing your rental agreement with the Forest Service and rules for the picnic shelter and site.

You are expected to leave the shelter and area clean and picked up. If you have any issues, call the Ranger Station.

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Sliding Rock - Pisgah Forest North Carolina

One of the most frequent set of questions we get involve Sliding Rock - a natural water slide where the flow of LookingGlass Creek flows over a granite dome creating a natural water slide which ends in a deep pool. On busy hot summer days there are hundreds of people waiting to take the plunge into the cold pool.

Directions to get to Sliding Rock.

Before we look at the rules for Sliding Rock let's talk about the location of the recreational area. Many people call to get the 'address' for Sliding Rock for their GPS units. Well, there is no address - it is a place in the forest that does not have a postal address assigned to it.

Sliding Rock is located on highway 276 between Waynesville and Brevard - it is about 8 miles South of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and about 7 1/2 miles from the entrance to the forest near Brevard. You can us a business address to locate the entrance to the forest near Brevard - use the Pizza Hut at 7 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC, 28768.

If you can enter coordinates directly into your GPS you can use these to get to Sliding Rock.

(decimal format)+35.313721, -82.787350
(minutes, degrees, and seconds) +35° 18' 49.40", -82° 47' 14.46"

You can enter these coordinates into Google Maps and it will show you the road as well as photos and even a 'street view' of the highway at the entrance to Sliding Rock Recreation Area. (See map below).

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Pisgah Forest Waterfalls | Our favorite Waterfalls in the Area.

There are many waterfalls to visit within the Pisgah National Forest and Transylvania County. We recommend that you pick up one of the following resources to find where they are and how to get to them:

1. There is a brochure published by the Brevard Chamber of Commerce that shows the major waterfalls in Transylvania County. It has a map, photos, and directions to the falls. You can get this at the Chamber of Commerce, and we also have a supply of them at the Pisgah Forest Visitor Center.

2. There is a wonderful map available showing the waterfalls of Western North Carolina. This map is available at the Visitor Center for $11.95 plus tax. It lists numerous falls that are not covered in the Chamber's brochure.

3. There are also several books with photographs and directions to various waterfall. The most noted one locally is North Carolina Waterfalls: A Hiking and Photography Guide. It is available at amazon here.

4. The Forest Service has a free handout called "Popular Waterfalls in Pasgah Forest". It is available here in pdf format.

Our Favorite Waterfalls | Why we Like Them

Looking Glass Falls - This is the nicest and most iconic and popular falls in the Pisgah District. A photo is shown below. It is very popular because it has easy access and a pretty reliable water supply, so it almost always looks great. Looking Glass Falls is on highway 276, four miles above the Ranger Station just north of the intersection with Forest Service Road 475. There is parking for about 30 cars, and a sidewalk to a viewing platform. About 90 steps lead to the area below the falls.

Moore Cove Falls - We like this falls more for the hike to the falls and the unusual rock formation of the falls than the waterfall itself. It is located on highway 276 one mile north of Looking Glass Falls. There is a footbridge across the stream and a kiosk at the head of the trail. The trail itself is a 1.5 mile round trip rated easy, although you will have to watch your footing in some areas. It is a lovely trail which has good populations of wild flowers, especially in the spring. The water flows over a rock ledge onto the rocks below and provides an opportunity to rest behind the waterfall in a natural stone grotto.

Daniel Ridge Falls - also called Jackson Falls and Tom Springs Falls. We like this falls because it is an easy hike to the falls, and to get there we cross a lovely bridge over the beautiful Davidson River. It is nice, but not spectacular, and it is a little difficult to see from the forest service road. It is, however, one that we recommend because of the easy access. To get there, fake Forest Service Road 475 from highway 276. Go past the entrance to the Cove Creek Group Camp to the next parking area on the North of the road. Follow the gated road across the bridge and take the road (more of a track in the weeds) to the right after you cross the river. The falls will be on your left. Caution - there always seems to be lots of Poison Ivy on this road.

Slick Rock Falls - This small falls is easily accessible, but not very interesting. It is about 1.5 miles up Forest Service Road 475B from FS 475. Turn onto FS475B a couple hundred yards west of the driveway to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. The falls is located on the right side of 475B near the trailhead to trail 117 - a trail that is used a lot by people climbing Looking Glass Rock. The falls is less than 50 yards from the parking area. It is best to go after a very recent rain.

Cove Creek Falls - A friend who also volunteers at the ranger station just posted on his facebook page that a visitor reported they could not find Cove Creek Falls. He went and checked, and it is still there. The waterfall guides are a little unclear on this falls - my opinion. Begin your hike at the Cove Creek Group Camp on FS475. Walk into the Cove Creek camping area and going to the vault toilets in the second campground you come to. Follow the trail to the left of the toilet. It soon crosses the creek on a bridge. Bear right after crossing the creek. Continue to where the blazed trail turns leaft and goes up hill. At this point follow the trail along the creek going upstream to the falls. You will have to scramble a bit over some rocks and a tree or two to get to the falls.

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Wildflowers in the Pisgah National Forest

One of the great things about the Pisgah District is the diverse growth of wildflowers and other plants and trees. The Pisgah is one of the most bio-diverse areas of the country and the wide variety of plants makes it a favorite destination of plant enthusiasts from early spring to late autumn.

We have been asked if there is a flower list for the area, and unfortunately there isn't one - at least to our knowlege. There are quite a few good books, however, that are about wildflowers of the area.

Our experience has been that there are several sort of distinct "flower seasons" in the district - times when certain types of flowers bloom.

In the Spring there are many new blooms, including numerous varieties of Violets, Pink and Yellow Ladyslippers, and flowering bushes like Redbud, Dogwood, and the Azaleas. Flame Azaleas are one of our favorites. It's always a treat to come across one of these beautiful blaze-orange bushes on a hike. There is no better season for flowers than Spring. Trilliums dot the hills, Showy Orchis, Trout Lillies, and Dwarf Iris crop up along the trails, and beds of May Apples grace the forest floor.

Late Spring to summer provides different flowers. Fleabane, Joe-Pye weeds, and Mountain Mint appear. You can also expect to see beds of Phlox, Bee Balm, Turks Cap Lillies. Late Spring and early summer are also the time of year for Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron to bloom. Some other summer treats incluse Galax, Foam Flowers, and Rattlesnake Plantain.

In the fall, asters and gentians are our favorites. They are everywhere - especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We have located a few Grass of Parnassus plants on the Parkway - lovely blooms when you find them.

Late Summer and Fall are also berry time in the mountains. The areas in the Pisgah most noted for berry picking are the balds areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway and areas near the Graveyard Fields. Blueberries are the most popular, although blackberry and wild raspberry are also available.

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Other Area Attractions and Links of Interest
  • Bele Chere
  • Looking Glass Falls
  • Folkmoot USA
  • Maggie Valley NC
  • Ghost Town in The Sky
  • Biltmore House and Gardens
  • Harrah's Cherokee Casino & Hotel
  • Mount Mitchell State Park
  • Hendersonville, NC
  • Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts
  • North Carolina Apple Festival
  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Sliding Rock
  • The Grove Park Inn
  • The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre: HART
  • The Nantahala National Forest
  • The Pisgah National Forest
  • The Wheels Through Time Museum
  • WNC Mountain State Fair
  • Waynesville, NC
  • Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
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    Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate

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    Jerry Lee Hatley | RE/MAX Mountain Realty | Maggie Valley NC Real Estate
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