Deep Creek Waterfalls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Deep Creek area in the Smokies, just north of Bryson City, NC, is a water wonderland. Creeks and branches descend through every nook down the surrounding mountains. The documentarian Ken Burns describes Deep Creek as one of his favorite places to visit in the national park. Three picturesque waterfalls are in close proximity to the campground, and hiking trails...

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Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

June means catawba rhododendron at Craggy Gardens. Located northeast of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens is loaded with the purple and maroon beauties. There are two short, easy trails near the Visitor Center that access mountaintops for spectacular vista views and bunches and bunches of rhodies. Craggy Pinnacle takes you above 5,800 feet for a view of...

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Kephart Prong Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kephart Prong is one of the many water drainages that give the Smokies its character and provide refreshing nourishment for all the flora and fauna. Named for Horace Kephart, an author who was very instrumental in helping the Great Smoky Mountains achieve national park status, this scenic mountain stream is especially inviting during the spring greening season....

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Sycamore Cove Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Essentially a loop trail (the two ends are about 200 yards apart on Hwy 276), Sycamore Cove is a great hike for the entire family. It’s relatively easy, with only about 600 feet of elevation change, and it’s a delightful four-season hike that is a great way to start your day. The trail initially follows picturesque Starnes Branch amidst large hemlock and...

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Little Bradley Trail and Falls, Green River Game Lands

This hike is found in a remote corner of the Green River Game Lands near Saluda, NC that enables you to enjoy beautiful waterfalls. Little Bradley Trail follows Cove Creek along its path to an eventual meeting with Green River, but before it gets there, it tumbles over the three-tiered cascade at Little Bradley Falls. I happened to catch it a couple days after a...

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Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Purchase Knob is found on the far eastern flank of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cataloochee Divide, north of Maggie Valley, NC. Near the summit and located at 4,850 feet, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is part of a network of what will be 32 centers supporting research and education about science in our national parks. The Purchase Knob...

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Island in the Sky Trails, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands preserves a wilderness of rock at the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Southeastern Utah. Water and gravity, this land’s prime architects, cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires. At center stage are two canyons carved by the Green and Colorado rivers. Island in the Sky stands more than two...

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Pink Beds Loop, Pisgah National Forest

Peaceful. If I were to think of a single word to describe the Pink Beds Loop Trail, that would be it. Peaceful. Located in a high valley in the Cradle of Forestry, Pink Beds is surrounded by the tall mountains and lush woodlands of Pisgah National Forest. Home to rare mountain bogs, unique vegetation, and unusual wildlife, this area is ideal for those who like to explore...

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Moore Cove Trail and Falls, Pisgah National Forest

This short hike is family friendly, including even toddlers. The Moore Cove Trail leads you 0.7 mile to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot free-fall over a cave-like outcropping. As long as you’re careful, you can get in behind this waterfall and peer at the forest through the cascade. Hey, on a hot day it makes a great refreshing shower. In season, you may discover a...

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Foster Creek Conservation Easement, North Mills River

Sometimes even the most benign little trail can be filled with wondrous surprises. Nestled in a small valley between Bryson and Caney Mountains in North Mills River, North Carolina, and surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, the Foster Creek conservation easement and trail is just such a place. Barely a mile in length, and nearly flat, this four-season trail is ideal for...

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Mountains to Sea Trail to Fork Ridge, Middle Prong Wilderness

Back to Rough Butt Bald Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another visit to the Mountains to Sea Trail. The MST follows, or remains close to the Parkway through much of Western North Carolina, so there are a number of easily accessible jumping off points that head into the backcountry. Middle Prong Wilderness was designated in 1984 and spans rugged high-elevation...

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Cat Gap Trail to Cedar Rock Falls and Long Branch, Pisgah National Forest

There is a series of waterfalls not far from the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery on Forest Road 475. Collectively known as Cedar Rock Falls, they carry Cedar Rock Creek on its plunge down the mountain to Davidson River. Access to these falls and the wetlands beyond is via the Cat Gap Trail, a jumping off connector trail for many of the...

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Buckhorn Gap Trail to Twin Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Just southeast of the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest lies the Avery Creek area, a beautiful hardwood forest with plenty of water and a hidden pair of waterfalls known as Twin Falls. Access to the falls is via the Buckhorn Gap Trail, an easy to moderate track that first follows Avery Creek, then turns north alongside Henry Branch. The forest management work...

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Homestead Trail, Lake Powhatan, Pisgah National Forest

Located in the Bent Creek area west of Asheville, the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area is a suburban fun place for family activities including hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and jogging. Adjacent to the North Carolina Arboretum and part of the Bent Creek Research and Demonstration Forest in Pisgah National Forest, the recreation area contains several miles of trails...

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Whitewater Falls, Nantahala National Forest & Bearwallow Valley in Gorges State Park

Transylvania County, North Carolina is known as “Land of Waterfalls” for good reason, as there are 250 unique cascades within a short drive of each other. Upper Whitewater Falls on the Whitewater River south of Sapphire is perhaps the most spectacular. There are two distinct overlooks of the 411 foot plunge taken by the river on its path to Lake Jocassee....

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North Carolina Arboretum

Nestled in the woods of Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum is a 434 acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Set amid rolling hills just off mile 393 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Arboretum offers more than ten miles of groomed hiking trails that are suitable for all ages. Home to one of the finest, most unique...

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Slick Rock Falls, Cove Creek and Caney Bottom Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Another of the myriad of hikes along Forest Road 475 in Pisgah National Forest, this two-parter is near the Fish Hatchery and Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. First we took a short trip up Forest Road 475B to Slick Rock Falls, then hiked to the base of Looking Glass Rock. The climbers love this area and we encountered some when we reached the base. The main hike was...

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Vineyard Gap and Riverside Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The Riverside Trail along the South Fork of Mills River in Pisgah National Forest is a great opportunity for boys to be boys, and girls to laugh at them, as the trail fords the river several times. You’ll get to wade in a crisp, cool mountain stream up to your knees as you negotiate the current and the smooth, slippery rocks on the bed. Enjoy the peaceful sounds of...

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Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, DuPont State Forest

With so much interest in The Hunger Games movie, I thought it was time to head out to DuPont State Forest for a dawn hike to Triple Falls, one of the scenes in the film. Triple Falls is a tiered cascade on the Little River that drops 120 dramatic feet and was also featured in the Last of the Mohicans movie. A photo of Triple Falls was used by the Friends of the Falls...

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Chattooga River Trail, Nantahala National Forest

Designated a National Wild and Scenic River, the Chattooga River’s headwaters are in North Carolina, but it stretches into Georgia and South Carolina as well. In fact, at one point known as Ellicott Rock, it marks the common tri-boundary of all three states. There are more than 50 miles of trails along the Chattooga River but this four-mile stretch just south of...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Over Rough Butt Bald, Blue Ridge Parkway

The Mountains to Sea Trail spans the width of North Carolina, running from the Great Smoky Mountains in the west, to the Outer Banks of Coastal Carolina. Much of the trail in the mountainous part of the state is near or parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. This section of the MST along the parkway has been designated a National Recreation Trail. With elevations well above...

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Stone Mountain and Wintergreen Falls, DuPont State Forest

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina, Stone Mountain is the highest point in the state forest at 3620 feet. Appropriately named for the exposed granite slab that traverses its summit, Stone Mountain offers a near 360° view of the surrounding terrain to winter hikers. Wintergreen Falls, though not as spectacular as...

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Bridal Veil Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, Lake Imaging, DuPont State Forest

Transylvania County, NC is known as the “Land of Waterfalls,” and for good reason. There are more than 250 waterfalls in the county, with many of the most spectacular falls in the heart of DuPont State Forest. Included among those are Bridal Veil and Grassy Creek Falls, both classic slide waterfalls that carve their way over large granite slabs. DuPont also...

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Corn Mill Shoals Trail, Little River Trail, Cedar Rock Trail, Big Rock Trail, DuPont State Forest, NC

DuPont State Forest, in western North Carolina between Hendersonville and Brevard, was sold to the state by DuPont Corporation under favorable donation and conservation terms in 1996. Within its boundary are more that 10,000 forested acres and 80 miles of hiking and biking trails. Elevation ranges from 2300′ at Hooker Falls on the Little River to 3600′ on...

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Chesler Park, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is in the southeastern corner of Utah, near Arches and Dead Horse Point. It is divided into four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon. The Needles District forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. The district’s extensive...

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Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Frequently. That is how many times I have done this hike. So many, I’ve lost count. I love the western North Carolina high country, and this area along the Blue Ridge Parkway known as Black Balsam has nearly a dozen peaks over 5,800 feet elevation, with Black Balsam Knob being the highest at 6,214. This area has some of the highest hiking on the Parkway. Many of...

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Pilot Cove/Slate Rock Creek Trails, Pisgah National Forest

Hidden deep within the Mills River area of Pisgah National Forest, the Pilot Cove/Slate Rock Creek loop trail is primarily a water feature hike. There are two notable waterfalls and several cascades on Slate Rock Creek, and views of Slate Rock through the trees. We encountered several creek crossings (some wading, some with log bridges), and a relatively young forest....

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Fryingpan Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Between North Carolina Scenic Hwy. 276 and the Pisgah Inn is Fryingpan Mountain, one of a series of mountains along the north side of the Blue Ridge Parkway that help form the Pisgah Ridge. It sits at mile 410 on the parkway. A unique feature of Fryingpan is the 1940s era fire tower that affords spectacular views of the surrounding Blue Ridge. The tower is on the...

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