Ideas & Inspiration for Your Visit to Pisgah National Forest
Stretching from some of the easternmost portions of Canada down to Georgia and Alabama, the Appalachian Mountains are some of Mother Nature’s finest work. The natural wonders contained within the massive mountain chain are innumerable, and while I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for one section over any of the others, I did recently have the chance to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, a distinct sub-range spread out over nine states.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, named as such for the bluish haze that appears to be draped over them when seen from a distance, are home to two national parks and a handful of national forests, including Pisgah, which is entirely contained within North Carolina. Established in 1916, Pisgah National Forest covers over 500,000 acres, offering tons and tons of recreational opportunities for nature lovers of all ages. If you ever find yourself in western North Carolina, here is a small sample size of some of Pisgah’s attractions:
1. Looking Glass Falls
Who doesn’t love a waterfall? Beautiful to look at and potentially dangerous, they are one of nature’s most magnetic attractions. Pisgah’s Looking Glass Falls may not hold a candle to the likes of Victoria, Niagara, or Iguazu, but then again, not many waterfalls do. Named after a nearby rock formation, what Looking Glass does offer is easy parking, immediate access right off of U.S. 276 (near Brevard), and a chance to jump right in to a so-called plunge pool, if you’re so inclined.
Easy accessibility is a large reason the falls are so popular with visitors. The warmer months naturally attract people, of course, but in the wintertime, when the falls freeze, ice climbers come calling, as well. Waterfall fanatics will be happy to know that numerous other falls, such as Slick Rock, Moore Cove, and Log Hollow falls, are also located nearby. If you like making someone else do all the work, Pisgah Field School offers a range of waterfall and hiking tours.
2. Sliding Rock
Another nearby waterfall that earns more than its fair share of brownie points as far as accessibility goes, is Sliding Rock, located only a couple miles up the road from Looking Glass. As its name suggests, Sliding Rock is a natural water slide that’s long been a favorite stop for visitors and locals alike. The gentle slope of the slide is about 60 feet long and ends in a small pool of water that is about 6 to 7 feet at its deepest point.
It’s open to anyone who’s up to it, but if you visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you will need to pay $3 per person to the U.S. Forest Service to gain access. Outside of those dates, it’s basically a free-for-all, but it should be noted that the water is always pretty cold, so taking a slide outside of the summer months could prove to be a chilly affair.
3. Devil’s Courthouse
If you’ve had enough of waterfalls, it may be time to take a hike… up to Devil’s Courthouse, that is. The mountain sits on the western edge of Pisgah National Forest and is accessed via a turnout along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Park your car in the parking lot there and hit the trail that winds just a half mile up the wooded mountainside. The incline is slightly steep at times, but it’s a fairly breezy climb, all in all, and once at the top, you’ll be able to look off into the distance and know I wasn’t pulling your leg about the blue haze that hangs over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
More experienced hikers — or anyone looking for different hiking options — can find a handy-dandy trail map for Pisgah National Forest at Hiking Project.
4. Pisgah Inn
Following sightseeing, it’s time to grab a bite to eat at the Pisgah Inn, which you’ll find by heading north on the parkway from Devil’s Courthouse. Situated right on the mountainside, the inn offers panoramic views and a full-fledged menu featuring daily specials. There are plenty of places to sit outside and enjoy the view, but your meal will be taken inside in the main dining room, which is just fine because it’s surrounded by windows anyway. A word to the wise, though: they operate on a first-come, first-serve basis; no reservations are taken.
If you like the place so much that you want to spend the night there, you can do that, too. It is an inn, after all, and you can book your room anytime from April 1st through October 31st. Just imagine rising at the crack of dawn, stepping out on your balcony, and breathing in that fresh mountain air as the sun comes up, am I right? Alternatively, you could always reserve a spot at Mount Pisgah Campground across the road, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.