Explore 512,000 acres of outdoor playground in the Pisgah National Forest, one of the first national forests established in the eastern US. Located in the southern section of the Appalachian Mountain range, Pisgah includes parts of the Great Balsam range, the Smokies, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A primarily hardwood forest, Pisgah National Forest includes mile-high peaks, heavily forested slopes, whitewater rivers, cascading waterfalls, and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. There’s no shortage of adventures to be found. Here are five of our favorite places!
Shining Rock Wilderness
There are more than 18,000 acres in North Carolina’s largest wilderness area – Shining Rock Wilderness. Located south of Asheville near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shining Rock lives up to its name as the white quartz boulders that cover the summit gleam brilliantly in the sunlight.
With multiple trails leading to the peak of Shining Rock, hikers of all skill levels can enjoy the wilderness area and mountain peak. Remember as you’re hiking to leave no trace, stay on the marked trails, and practice good trail etiquette. It is essential to check the trailhead kiosk and the park ranger office for any notices of trail closures, safety information, restrictions, or changes in routes.
Cradle of Forestry
Visit the birthplace of modern forestry in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest. The Cradle of Forestry was founded in 1898 by Carl A. Schenck, who was employed by George W. Vanderbilt to manage his 120,000-acre estate. Here, Schenck established the Biltmore Forest school – the first school of forestry in the US. The Cradle of Forestry commemorates the very beginning of forest conservation in America and was established to “preserve, develop, and make available to this and future generations the birthplace of forestry and forestry education in America.”
The trails here allow visitors to explore seven historic Biltmore Forest School buildings, attend programs and special events, and ring the bell of the 1914 Climax logging train engine! The Discovery Center also includes an interactive exhibit hall, a theater that plays a short film about the history of the Cradle of Forestry, and a gift shop!
Ready to take the plunge? Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest, located north of Brevard, is a 60-foot natural slide into an 8-foot deep pool. An observation deck sits at the top of the slide, offering spectacular views of Sliding Rock and the brave visitors that slide down it!
Sliding Rock is open for viewing year-round; however, lifeguards are only on duty between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The entrance fee for Sliding Rock is $4.00 per person, and the area generally fills to capacity pretty quickly. Be sure to arrive early and avoid peak hours (noon to 4 pm). If the parking lot is closed, that means they are at capacity, and it will reopen as soon as space becomes available. Sliding Rock also closes temporarily in the event of severe weather or high water levels.
Sitting on the Tennessee state line in Hot Springs, NC, Max Patch is a 350-acre bald (a mountain summit covered by thick vegetation of grasses and shrubs instead of heavy forest growth) that provides visitors with a 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains in the southwest and Mount Mitchell in the east. It is a popular destination for picnics and relaxing in the sunshine! Max Patch is also accessible by car and features an easy walk to the summit.
Be advised: there is a forest order in effect until July 2022 prohibiting camping, fires, and fireworks. Max Patch will open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sundown. Groups larger than ten people are not allowed, and all dogs must be leashed and remain on designated trails.
Dupont State Park
Famous as the settings for The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans movies, Dupont State Park features incredible mountain lakes, fantastic hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls! It is located less than an hour south of Asheville near the South Carolina state line. The 10,000-acre forest’s 86 miles of trails is a popular destination for both hikers and mountain bikers.
Dupont State Park is also home to magnificent waterfalls, including Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls! Another must-see spot in the Dupont State Park area is the Covered Bridge above High Falls, which was built by a developer intending to build homes here before the land was purchased and preserved by the state of North Carolina. It is a great spot to take photos!
There is no shortage of fun and adventure in the Pisgah National Forest! If you’re planning to visit, check out the best places to stay in the area with great access to the forest. There’s so much to see, do, and eat here!