The Pisgah National Forest Road Trip Guide
Pisgah National Forest is one of the most well-known forests in the U.S. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s certainly time to pay a visit to this lush woodland.
With numerous hiking and biking trails, scenic waterfalls and byways, and several campgrounds in the area, you won’t run out of places to explore. And we’ve got the Pisgah National Forest Road Trip Guide to get you where you want to go.
Let’s jump in!
Where is Pisgah National Forest?
Pisgah National Forest is located in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, including north and south of Asheville. As a matter of fact, Asheville is one of the more popular destinations within Pisgah. In addition, one of the nearest access points to Pisgah National Forest is a mere ten-minute drive from downtown Asheville.
Two scenic drives taking you into Pisgah, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway (U.S. 276.) It’s no wonder, then, that Pisgah National Forest is one of the top destinations for a road trip in the country.
Pisgah National Forest Visitor Center: 1001 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC .
The History of Pisgah National Forest
Initially purchased in 1911, this was the first parcel of land procured under the Weeks Act, which shaped the eastern national forest lands we know today. Pisgah National Forest consists of 500,000 acres of lush forested regions. As a result, it’s home to whitewater rivers, waterfalls, hundreds of miles of trails, and some of the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi.
Nearly 100,000 acres of Pisgah was once part of the famous Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style castle.
Built in the 1890s in Asheville, it lays claim as America’s largest home. Now part of the national forest, it also is home to two of the first designated wilderness areas, Shining Rock and Linville Gorge, along with the first American forestry school.
How Many Waterfalls are in Pisgah National Forest?
Often referred to as “The Land of the Waterfalls,” Pisgah National Forest is home to over 200 waterfalls. Moreover, this includes 60 plus favorites near Asheville, many of which are easy to access for all hiking skill levels.
Some of these waterfalls are the highest in the East, and a few have also appeared on the big screen. In addition, many are meant for taking a dip in the water or sliding down the natural waterslides.
So, you may want to bring a bathing suit depending on which falls you visit. Just use caution and be aware of the trail and your surroundings. The views might take your breath away, but some of those views may require some arduous hiking over and around trip hazards such as tree roots or rocks.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway
The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is formally known as U.S. Highway 276. This 15-mile stretch includes many scenic vistas and trails, including Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, and Sliding Rock Natural Waterslide, to name a few. You’ll also come across the historic forestry school, Cradle of the Forestry, home of the first forestry school in the U.S.
Access to this scenic byway is in the town of Brevard, where the road meets up with U.S. Highway 64 before turning into the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway. Brevard is 30 miles south of Asheville.
This byway also connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway, another well-known scenic road taking drivers through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Pisgah. The Parkway is a 469-mile road in the Appalachians connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Drive one or both, but the views should be worth either one.
Best Hikes Near Pisgah National Forest
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Pisgah National Forest, there will surely be a trail for you. Combine that with the over 200 waterfalls in the region, and you shouldn’t have any issues finding one that matches your expectations of beauty. We’ve got two of the best hikes with waterfall views listed right here for you.
Catawba Falls Trail
This 2.3-mile out and back trail is located near Black Mountain, North Carolina, on Catawba River Road in Old Fort. While it’s a popular trail, there’s plenty of parking at the trailhead.
The highlight of this trail is a 100-foot waterfall as you come upon the headwaters of the Catawba River. At an elevation gain of 341 feet, it is rated good for all skill levels but could require a few stream crossings. A bonus to this hike is the many side trails that lead to historic buildings. It’s a trail with history built in.
Moore Cove Falls Trail
This 1.2-mile out-and-back trail is billed as easy and kid-friendly. From U.S. Highway 64 in Pisgah, follow the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway for six miles to the paved pull-off for parking. The trail starts just over the wooden bridge.
Moore Cove Falls Trail highlights a fantastic view of Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot high waterfall cascading over a protruding rock. It can be quite busy, but this hike is worth it for the views alone.
In addition, the cool factor of being able to go behind the falls, makes this is a top-notch hiking trail.
Best Campgrounds Near Pisgah National Forest
With so much to see and do in this area, you may have to stay a few days, so you don’t miss out on anything. Whether you like tent camping, RV’s, or cabins, these two top-rated campgrounds could make your Pisgah National Forest road trip even better.
Mama Gertie’s Hideaway Campground
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, each site is stepped, giving you mountain vistas almost anywhere you camp. While it is an RV-focused campground, it also offers tent and cabin sites. Mama Gertie’s comes complete with amenities such as full hookups, bathhouses, and laundry. You’ll also find a nature trail, a camp store, a pet area, and a rec room.
Close to Asheville and all the trails and waterfalls, there’s plenty to do when staying amidst the forest here. Full hookup sites for RV’s start at $65/night.
Address: 15 Uphill Road, Swannanoa, NC.
Asheville East KOA
Asheville East KOA has two lakes on its property, and the Swannanoa River winds its way through the campsites. You may never want to leave your site! However, you’ll have many reasons to explore the beauty of the area, with Asheville only 14 miles away and the Pisgah National Forest surrounding you.
At this KOA, you’ll have the amenities you’d expect and then some. Full hookups, laundry, rec rooms. Plus activities such as floating the river, fishing, swimming, volleyball, and paddleboats. Nightly average rates for an RV start around $60/night.
Address: 2708 Highway 70 East, Swannanoa, NC.
Is a Pisgah National Forest Road Trip Worth It?
A road trip through Pisgah National Forest is definitely worth it. Exploring the area in and around Pisgah will certainly keep you busy for days. The waterfalls and the hiking trails, the Biltmore Estate and scenic drives, Asheville and Brevard all provide plenty to see and do for everyone.
Pisgah National Forest is a Scenic Wonderland
Whatever vehicle you’re driving for this scenic road trip, pack it up, hop in, and start driving. You won’t want to miss out on one of the most popular national forests in the nation.
Pisgah National Forest is truly a wonderland to explore on foot, in a vehicle, or simply from the comfort of a cozy chair at your campsite. Breathe in the mountain air, breathe out the stress. Pisgah is calling your name, and it’s time to go!
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