Pisgah National Forest

Over 500,000 acres of Hiking, Mountain Biking, Kayaking, Camping, and More

Established in 1916, this forest holds the distinction of being the first National Forest in the eastern United States.

Photo by 828Vibes

Pisgah National Forest Ultimate Visitor Guide!

See Instagram Photos of Pisgah Forest
Encompassing over half a million acres, Pisgah National Forest wraps around the Asheville region, showcasing some of the most spectacular landscapes and diverse recreational activities in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Named after the majestic Mt. Pisgah, standing tall at 5,000 feet near the famed Cold Mountain, this forest is the first National Forest in the eastern United States, established in 1916.

Pisgah National Forest is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts all year round. It boasts a network of over a thousand miles of trails and wilderness areas, making it a haven for hikers. During warmer months, its waterways offer superb fishing, boating, and whitewater adventures, while its towering peaks and deep ravines are a magnet for rock climbers and mountain bikers. The forest caters to a range of camping experiences, from fully-equipped RV sites to more rustic, primitive camping options.

As autumn arrives, the forest transforms into a vibrant palette of fall colors, attracting scores of visitors. In winter, the snow-draped northeastern slopes become a hotspot for skiing. Additionally, the forest is home to three fish hatcheries that annually raise over half a million brook, brown, and rainbow trout, contributing to the stocking of public trout waters across the North Carolina mountains.

About Pisgah National Forest

Location: Western North Carolina.
Size: Over 500,000 acres.
Landscape: Mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls, heavily forested slopes.
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, camping, and more.
Special Features: First tract of land under the Weeks Act leading to the creation of eastern U.S. national forests; home to the first U.S. school of forestry.

Mountain Biking

Pisgah National Forest offers a variety of mountain biking trails across different districts:

Pisgah Ranger District: Includes trails like Avery Creek Trail #327 and Bennett Gap Trail #138.
Appalachian Ranger District: Offers trails such as Bear Pen TR 176 and Laurel Gap TR 184.
Grandfather Ranger District: Features trails like Kitsuma/Youngs Ridge Trail 204 and Point Lookout Trail.
Notable Areas: Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Area, and more.


The forest boasts over a thousand miles of trails, catering to all levels of hikers:

Trail Highlights: Art Loeb Trail, Black Balsam Trailhead, and Davidson River Trail.
Special Areas: Max Patch for panoramic views, Roan Mountain for wildflower habitats.
Pisgah Ranger District: Known for waterfalls like Sliding Rock and hikes like Looking Glass Rock and John Rock​​.

Kayaking and Water Sports

Rivers and Streams: Offer excellent opportunities for fishing, boating, and whitewater sports.
Wilson Creek Area: Highly favored among kayakers for its challenging waters​​.

Family Fun and Camping

Campgrounds: Full-featured sites like Lake Powhatan, as well as primitive and group campgrounds.
Special attractions: Cradle of Forestry, Linville Gorge and Falls, and the Pink Beds area, which is known for its flora.
Safety: Ensure that you follow Bear Safety Tips and check with ranger offices for regional regulations​​.

Additional Activities

Horseback Riding and Dogs: Available options for horseback riding dog-friendly areas.
Cultural Significance: Home to America’s first school of forestry and part of the historic Biltmore Estate​​​​​.

Notable Natural Attractions

Cradle of Forestry: America’s first school of forestry.
Linville Gorge and Falls: Deepest gorge in the eastern U.S.
Looking Glass Rock and Mount Hardy: Popular landmarks for hikers and rock climbers.

Pisgah National Forest, often referred to as the land of a thousand waterfalls, is a treasure trove of natural cascades and scenic beauty. The forest extends over half a million acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, from the border with Virginia to near the border with Georgia. Within this vast expanse, the waterfalls are a major highlight, with some cascades plummeting over 100 feet into crystal-clear pools.


Notable Waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest:

Catawba Falls: A 2.7-mile hike leads to this stunning waterfall.
Cathey’s Creek Falls: Less than a mile hike to reach this fall.
Cedar Rock Falls: 1.8 miles to witness the cascade.
Cove Creek Falls: A 2-mile journey to this waterfall.
Daniel Ridge Falls/Tom’s Spring Falls: Offers a 1-mile in-and-out or a 4-mile loop hike.
Elk River Falls: A short hike, less than a mile.
Grogan Creek Falls: A longer 5.5-mile hike.
(South) Harper Creek Falls: 2.8 miles to the falls.
Log Hollow Falls: Another short hike of less than a mile.
Looking Glass Falls: Easily accessible roadside waterfall.
Moore Cove Falls: 1.4 miles to reach.
Roaring Fork Falls: Less than a mile hike.
Sliding Rock Falls: Less than a mile, famous for its natural waterslide.
Twin Falls: A 4-mile hike to see two waterfalls.
Upper Creek Falls: A 1.6-mile hike to the falls​.

These waterfalls, spread across the three ranger districts of Pisgah National Forest – Pisgah, Grandfather, and Appalachian – offer a mix of easy hikes and more adventurous treks deep within the forest. Many of them are near Brevard, NC, known for its rich collection of Pisgah waterfalls. Each waterfall provides a unique experience, from serene pools to dramatic drops, making Pisgah National Forest a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and waterfall lovers.

Park Related Links


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Exploring the Quieter Side of the Smokies

Sign up for the 828Vibes travel tourism newsletter to unlock the hidden gems of our vibrant destination! Get exclusive access to insider tips, special discounts on local attractions, and personalized recommendations to enhance your travels. Stay updated with our curated monthly insights and make your next adventure unforgettable. Subscribe now and start exploring like a local!

Share This