The Pisgah National Forest
- Sliding Rock
- Water Falls
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
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
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.
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
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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 Recreation.gov.
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
Free Roadside Camping in the Pisgah
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
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
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
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
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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
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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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
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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a Picnic in the Pisgah National Forest. Reserve a Picnic
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
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
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
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
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
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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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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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
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
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
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
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
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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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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