Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest is so much more than trees. The outdoor wonderland covers 512,758 acres of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. It’s home to the highest peak in the U.S. east of the Rockies, Mount Mitchell, as well as the North Carolina Arboretum and wide-open spaces to enjoy. The vast forest, just outside Asheville and Brevard, is a delightful place to visit in any season and no matter your level of adventure.

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor Recreation

If you’re up for a slow afternoon walk or a week of intense hiking, you’re welcome at the Pisgah National Forest. In fact, more than 8.5 million visitors spend time at the forest every year, and most take some kind of walk while they're here. A trio of long hiking trails, the Art Loeb Trail, Shut-In Trail and the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail, attract people on foot, bicycle, or horseback. Hundreds of miles of other trails traverse the mountain peaks and hardwood forests. If you’d rather sit down, you could enjoy the scenery a no-impact drive along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.

The Pisgah National Forest is one of the oldest places managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and this story is told at the Cradle of Forestry, which is part museum and part outdoor adventure site. Inside, you’ll find exhibits and a informative movie. Outside, you can take a stroll along the Biltmore Campus Trail to see the historic buildings from a century ago where new forest rangers were training, or the Forest Festival Trail to see a logging locomotive from 1915. The Adventure Trail, designed for adults and children with autism, features activities both indoors and out.

National Forest visitors also have numerous opportunities to have fun on the water with rivers, lakes and streams running through the national forest. Fishing is especially popular, as is whitewater rafting all of the Pisgah National Forest no matter the season.

Linville, Middle Prong & Shining Rock Wilderness Areas

With half a million acres, the Pisgah National forest is home to diverse terrain. With a visit to the Linville Wilderness, you’ll find a deep gorge between Linville Mountain and Jonas Ridge with deep forests on both sides. The Linville River cuts through middle of this wilderness, offering numerous opportunities for fishing and rock climbing. More scenic wonders are waiting at Middle Prong; this wilderness area of steep ridges is named for the Pigeon River’s headwaters found here. Shining Rock, a popular place for hiking and another wilderness, gets its name from the white quartz that shimmers in the sunlight.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls
Waterfalls

All of the cool things to see within the national forest, it’s hard to beat the waterfalls. There are so many in this half million acres that the Pisgah National Forest has been called the land of waterfalls. The visitor center has maps that you can pick up and lead the way to the waterfalls all of the park, whether they’re found along the Thompson River, easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, or nestled among one of the other scenic places in the forest.

Pisgah National Forest Cabins & Lodging

Pisgah National Forest Cabins & Lodging
Pisgah National Forest Cabins & Lodging

Whether you want to relax at the end of the day or want to get a jump on the next day’s explorations, staying in the national forest is a smart and relaxing choice. A dozen campgrounds are scattered throughout the forest, all open May through October. Others have longer seasons, and a handful of them are open year-round. If you’d prefer something a step up from tent camping, think about renting a cabin. They’re easy to find throughout the forest and surrounding communities, offering some shelter from the elements and some private room to relax.

Top image: jeffgunn (flickr)

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