If Pisgah National Forest doesn’t immediately ring a bell, just think of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Year after year, this gorgeous area is one of the eastern USA’s most popular destinations for getting outdoors. It has vast, mountainous forest lands and some pretty and powerful waterways. As a major plus, it’s just minutes away from one of the region’s coolest cities. Let’s check out how you can plan your Pisgah National Forest camping getaway.
Where Is Pisgah National Forest?
This amazing Appalachian wonderland is just outside Asheville in western North Carolina. In fact, there are more than half a million acres of hardwood forest surrounding the city. About a fifth of the acreage was once part of the wealthy Vanderbilt family’s expansive Biltmore Estate.
Pisgah National Forest lies just 80 miles east of Knoxville, Tenn., and is about twice that distance from Atlanta. It’s a natural vacation getaway for people in the south, but it also draws visitors from many other places.
What to Do When Visiting Pisgah National Forest
In Pisgah National Forest, you can enjoy stunning hikes and scenic byways. Numerous whitewater rivers run through the mountains here. Here are some of the many things to see and do at Pisgah National Forest.
Check Out the Many Waterfalls
Some claim there are more than 200 waterfalls scattered among the forest’s 500,000 acres. Some of the most impressive ones are along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, a 79-mile loop through the Pisgah Ranger District. Check out Looking Glass Falls, with its 60-foot cascade from a picturesque cliff. Moore’s Cove Falls and Jack’s Cove Falls are just up the road, and High Falls is also worth looking up. It has a vertical drop of 150 feet.
Hike to Looking Glass Rock
You can see this huge granite dome from all over Pisgah. A somewhat adventurous hike will take you right up to the landmark. It’s a 6.5-mile out-and-back trail that rises about 1,700 feet, and it should take you between four and five hours. Maybe you’ll get close enough to see the “eyebrows” on this incredible rock formation.
Check Out Sliding Rock
This natural water slide is one of the coolest ways to beat the heat. It’s a 60-foot smooth, flat, slanted rock with a steady flow of water running over it. Take the plunge by sitting down and sliding gently into an eight-foot pool of cold water. It’s between 50 and 60 degrees. If sliding isn’t your style, you can watch the fun from a safe distance from one of the observation decks.
Tour the Cradle of Forestry
If you’re into trees, you’ll dig this place, and it’s just a few miles from Sliding Rock. The Pisgah National Forest is the birthplace of science-based forestry practices in the U.S. At this unique Discovery Center, you can learn more about trees and the importance of managing them. Watch a film in the theater and take a walk on three different interpretive trails on the grounds.
Climb to the Top of Devil’s Courthouse
It’s a short but challenging and steep hike to the top, but the view is quite a payoff. The trail is about a half-mile and mostly paved. An observation area at the summit offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding landscape of Pisgah National Forest. Find out if the devil really holds court there or if it’s another example of this region’s colorful lore.
Enjoy Water Sports on the French Broad River Tributaries
The French Broad River is one of the world’s oldest rivers. Experts say it’s been flowing through these parts for somewhere around 300 million years. These days the river and its many tributaries are extremely popular for recreation. Do some paddleboarding, kayaking, or tubing on offshoots like the Pigeon River, the Swannanoa River, and the Nolichucky River. Mightier waters upstream make for great canoeing and whitewater rafting.
Pro Tip: Before you pitch your tent for the night, read up on Can You Camp in National Forests?
Where to Camp in Pisgah National Forest
With numerous campgrounds of different types, there are fantastic opportunities for Pisgah National Forest camping. Many of the campgrounds offer a woodsy experience close to the comforts of town. As you can imagine, many of these places are in high demand. We’ve narrowed down the list to some of our favorite places to stay.
Davidson River Campground
Address: 1 Davidson River Circle, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
Amenities: Davidson River Campground offers picnic tables, fire rings, and lantern poles, as well as a bathhouse with flush toilets and hot showers. Pads are asphalt, and there’s a dump station.
Pet-Friendly: Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Why You’ll Love It: It’s just three miles from the town of Brevard, so it’s convenient to many of the top attractions in the town and Pisgah National Forest. However, it still has a rustic, remote feel, and there’s direct access to the Davidson River.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.9
Lake Powhatan Campground
Address: 375 Wesley Branch Rd., Asheville, NC 28806
Amenities: Lake Powhatan Campground offers full and partial hookups and a modern bathhouse with hot showers. There’s a dump station on-site, and firewood is available.
Pet-Friendly: Dogs must be kept on a leash.
Why You’ll Love It: It’s just outside Asheville, but it’s in a thick forest on a lake with lots of trails and a swimming area. Sites are big with lots of privacy. It also borders the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, which is popular with cyclists. Cell service is limited, however.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.8
Curtis Creek Campground
Address: 3799 Curtis Creek Rd., Old Fort, NC 28762
Amenities: Only the first loop of Curtis Creek Campground can accommodate RVs. The other two loops of the campground are for tent camping only. All sites have picnic tables and fire rings. You’ll find vault toilets, drinking pumps, and trash and recycling. The gravel road is bumpy in places.
Pet-Friendly: Must be on leashes.
Why You’ll Love It: It’s quiet and secluded near the tiny town of Old Fort on the site of an old CCC camp. It’s beside a fast-running stream that’s productive for trout fishing. The sound of rushing water is particularly calming at night. There’s no cell service in this area of Pisgah National Forest.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.2
Black Mountain Campground
Address: 50 Black Mountain Campground Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714
Amenities: There are 46 primitive sites and two with electricity at Black Mountain Campground. The sites have fire rings and picnic tables. There are also modern bathrooms with hot showers. You can buy ice and firewood.
Pet-Friendly: Pets must be kept on a leash.
Why You’ll Love It: The word “friendly” keeps coming up in reviews, and that’s always a good sign. Spend time on the South Toe River or hike the nearby Hemlock Trail to the highest point in the state.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 7.9
Mount Pisgah Campground
Address: 408 Blue Ridge Pkwy #8, Canton, NC, 28716
Amenities: There are 53 sites within Mount Pisgah Campground you can reserve and 71 that are first-come, first-served. There are flush toilets and bathrooms with showers. The Pisgah Inn across the street has a country store and restaurant.
Pet-Friendly: Pets must be kept on a leash.
Why You’ll Love It: This is a true mountain retreat in a rustic setting right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can enjoy a meal at the restaurant and relax on the deck there. You can also explore the Flap Laurel Gap Bog. One more plus: There’s Wi-Fi.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 8.3
Pro Tip: Love exploring national forests? Check out these 4 Best National Forests with Campgrounds.
Enjoy Pisgah National Forest Camping
Pisgah National Forest seems to have it all with its lush forests, wild and calming rivers, and majestic mountains. Get out and discover this sweeping scenery for yourself as you explore this unique area of the Southeast.
Is Pisgah National Forest on your bucket list? Drop a comment below!
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