Cradle of Forestry, Pisgah National Forest

The Cradle of Forestry along Scenic Forest Byway 276 in Pisgah Ranger District is the birthplace of forest conservation in America. Spanning over 100 years of forest conservation history, the Cradle offers a snapshot of life at America’s first School of Forestry along the Biltmore Campus Trail. German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck accepted George Vanderbilt’s offer to...

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Blue Ridge Parkway Maintenance Trail, Milepost 420

There are lots of little maintenance trails alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway that don’t show up on any trail maps or have any signs to let you know they are there. One of those is a hidden gem in the high country at milepost 420 directly across from the Black Balsam spur road. It’s great for an hour stroll to brighten you senses, or if you’re looking...

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Frozen Waterfalls, Pisgah National Forest

When bitter cold winter temps come around, perhaps the last thing on your mind is hiking. I get that. I’m no fan of the cold either. As with everything else though, Mother Nature has a reward if you are willing to tolerate the temporary discomfort. Frozen waterfalls! It’s a rare occurrence in Western North Carolina, but usually once a year, the air will stay...

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Forest Road 5031 from Courthouse Falls to Farlow Gap, Pisgah National Forest

Sometimes the forest roads in national forests make the best hiking trails. Such is the case with FR 5031 in Pisgah National Forest. Located near Courthouse Falls on the far southwestern side of Pisgah, near the boundary with Nantahala National Forest, FR 5031 is a means of getting from a drainage bowl to Farlow Gap on Shuck Ridge. For mountain bikers, you could connect...

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Seniard Ridge Trail to Log Hollow Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Occasionally a nice easy stroll to a beautiful waterfall is just what the doctor ordered. I made this a three and a half mile loop, but you can actually get to the waterfall in a mile round trip. The woods off FR 475B in Pisgah National Forest are dense and filled with mountain streams running down from the Blue Ridge high above. One of these streams is Log Hollow...

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Cat Gap & Butter Gap Trails to Grogan Creek Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Looking for an easy hike of less than five miles that will take you to several different waterfalls? Yes? Then this just might be the one for you. It starts on the ever popular Cat Gap Trail, passes two falls on Cedar Rock Creek and a whitewater cascade on John Branch before hopping on the Butter Gap Trail to follow Grogan Creek through Picklesimer Fields to the truly...

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Big Butt Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway & Pisgah National Forest

Another foray into the Black Mountains led us to summits with names like Point Misery, Little Butt and Big Butt. The Big Butt Trail takes off from Balsam Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway along Brush Fence Ridge, roller-coastering across several peaks and gaps. The forest is filled with floral and fungal oddities, and old-growth spruce and pine that protect the ridge like...

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Douglas Falls Trail from Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes you have to work for the reward at the end of the trail. Hiking from Craggy Gardens to Douglas Falls is a prime example. You will descend 1,350 feet from the Blue Ridge Parkway to this 70-foot waterfall through a luscious forest of birch, maple, and beech, even enjoying old growth hemlock along the way. Expect a rough hike, as the terrain is very rugged in the...

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Turkeypen Gap Trail and South Mills River Trail Loop, Pisgah National Forest

I always enjoy hikes along the South Mills River in the Pisgah Ranger District. This loop follows the north side of the riverbank for several miles along an old logging road. But to get there, first you cross Sharpy Mountain from Turkeypen Gap. The trail travels through beautiful hardwood and heath forest as it roller-coasters across four gaps to its meeting with Wagon...

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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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Davidson River Trail, Pisgah National Forest

This short, little trail from Cove Creek to the State Fish Hatchery is often overlooked, but it will take you to some of the most gnarly whitewater on Davidson River. The trail is simple. It’s just a straight 1.1 mile shot from one end to the other, and then back. Ah, but have you ever seen a two-tiered trail? If you promise to be very, very careful on the river...

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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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Forest Road Connector of Caney Bottom and Daniel Ridge Trails, Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service is the greatest road builder in the world. Oft times, those forest service roads come in handy for hikers to get from one ridge to another, from one creek drainage to another, or simply from one trail to another. That’s the case with Forest Road 225 in Pisgah National Forest. FR225 tips the Caney Bottom and Cove Creek Trails on its eastern...

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Scout Camp Loop on Art Loeb Trail and Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Backcountry wilderness. If you really want to get a taste, then this hike is for you. Starting at the remote Camp Daniel Boone, the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail enters Shining Rock Wilderness immediately. As you begin the nearly 2,000′ ascent to Deep Gap, on the southern shoulder of Cold Mountain, you will cross numerous streams as you hike through...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

When the Blue Ridge Parkway reopens each year in early spring, it is great to get back into the high country at milepost 420. That means the Black Balsam area and Shining Rock Wilderness. An oft overlooked trail on the west side of the wilderness is Little East Fork, a twisty path that follows the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River from Shining Rock Gap to the Daniel...

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Buck Spring Trail to Pisgah Inn, Pisgah National Forest

There’s a trail from Scenic Hwy 276 that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds around 10 ridges and makes 13 easy stream crossings on its way to the Pisgah Inn on the Parkway. Buck Spring Trail eventually ends up at the site of the former hunting lodge of George W. Vanderbilt II, the father of Pisgah National Forest. In the spring this trail is alive with...

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Graveyard Fields Waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Graveyard Fields is an anomaly — a high mountain meadow and bog surrounded by 6,000 foot mountain peaks. The wide-open spaces found at Graveyard Fields are a rarity, an exception in the otherwise lush and densely forested slopes of Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness. Popular with locals and tourists alike, no trip to the high country of Western...

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Big Bald Mountain on Appalachian Trail, Cherokee National Forest

Northeast of Mars Hill, NC, the Big Bald Range straddles the Tennesssee/North Carolina border and marks the boundary between Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. The Appalachian Trail (AT) follows the state line, as it does for nearly all its length between these two states. The destination for this hike is 5,516 foot Big Bald Mountain, another of the grassy balds that...

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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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Appalachian Trail from Beauty Spot to Unaka Mountain, Tennessee

High above the community of Erwin, Tennessee, the Appalachian Trail follows the North Carolina / Tennessee state line through the Unaka Range. From a grassy bald ridge with the appropriate name Beauty Spot, to the summit of 5,184′ Unaka Mountain, the trail winds northeasterly for a 4-mile section through a continuously changing ecology. Stand on the bald with...

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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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Big Creek Trail on Little Pisgah Ridge, Pisgah National Forest

Looking to do some ridge hiking down, down, down from the Blue Ridge Parkway into Pisgah National Forest? Overlooking North Mills River, the Little Pisgah Ridge starts at 4,800′, then drops down into the Big Creek drainage some 2,100 feet below. Catch your views of the mountains on the Parkway before you start because this is a heavily forested hike that instead...

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Appalachian Trail on Grassy Ridge, Roan Highlands

Located along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, and where Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests merge, Grassy Ridge in the Roan Highlands is the longest stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail navigates this stunning ridge, hopping from Carvers Gap to Round Bald to Jane Bald, and on to the 6,169 foot Grassy Ridge Bald. The...

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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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Appalachian Trail to Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge

Standing guard along the state line, Max Patch Mountain is a grassy bald with fabulous panoramic views of the surrounding North Carolina and Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains. Oh, and by the way, the celebrated Appalachian Trail crosses its 4,629 foot summit. So far as Southern Appalachian summits go, this one is moderately short and easy, but you can make a day of it by...

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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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Funneltop Mountain and Squirrel Gap to South Mills River, Pisgah National Forest

Southeast of the Cradle of Forestry National Historical Site is a remote area of Pisgah National Forest with trails that will take you along ridge lines with views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Looking Glass Rock, then follow creeks and streams as they tumble down the mountains to the western end of South Mills River. You will encounter names like Squirrel Gap, Glady...

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Cat Gap Loop to Cedar Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Cedar Rock is one of several granite pluton monoliths found in the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest. More difficult to get to than its nearby brethren, Looking Glass and John Rock, Cedar Rock has outstanding long distance views from both the east and west sides of its summit. You will have to work to get there, climbing nearly 1,700 feet from the valley...

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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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