With three major public lands within its borders, Transylvania County is a mecca for hikers, offering hundreds of miles of trails.
Pisgah National Forest itself has nearly 380 miles of trails. Popular routes in the Pisgah Ranger District include several around the Davidson River area to the Black Balsam area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hikes range from family-friendly jaunts to strenuous overnight treks. The 30-mile Art Loeb trailhead is a short hike from the Davidson River Campground.
For more information, stop by the ranger station, which is located a mile from the forest entrance on U.S. 276, or call (828) 877-3265.
Gorges State Park, located on N.C. 281 South off U.S. 64, has several great hiking opportunities. Among the area’s trails are the Auger Hole Trail, a 7.25-mile trip (one-way) through the center of the park that ends at the Foothills Trail; and the Cane Brake Trail, a 5-mile trip along the eastern boundary of the park, which also connects to the Foothills Trail at the top of Lake Jocassee, where the Toxaway River and Toxaway Creek meet.
Visitors wishing to hike to the Horsepasture River area, which is owned and operated by the U.S. Forest Service, should follow signs in the park leading to the new Grassy Ridge Trailhead parking. Rainbow Falls offers a dramatic 150-foot drop along the Horsepasture River that creates a mist as it splashes into a pool at the bottom, resulting in a rainbow when the sun strikes it just right.
Just upstream is Turtleback Falls, a popular spot for sliding into a pool below. It should also be noted, however, that in 2016 there were multiple fatalities at Rainbow Falls. It is far too common for people swimming in the pool at the foot of Turtleback Fall to lose their footing on the rocks between Turtleback and Rainbow Falls and get swept over the edge. Exercise extreme caution when visiting these and all the other waterfalls, and keep a safe distance away from the top of Rainbow Falls. The Frozen Creek Access, located near Rosman on Frozen Creek Road, includes hiking access.
The park is also planning several new trails, which should be open by mid-summer. Inexperienced hikers are not recommended to try and tackle the more remote trails in Gorges. For more information about Gorges, call (828) 966-9099 or visit www.ncparks.gov/gorges-state-park.
There are 82 miles of forest roads and trails open to hiking in DuPont State Recreational Forest.
Some hikes are easy: Hooker Falls is a quarter-of-a-mile walk from the Hooker Falls access area on Staton Road. The most popular forest destinations are Triple Falls and High Falls on the Little River. A 2.25-mile hike from the High Falls access area takes visitors by both waterfalls. Bridal Veil Falls is a 2.5-mile hike from the High Falls access area, or 2.25 miles from the Fawn Lake access area on Reasonover Road. There is a covered bridge on Buck Forest Road just above High Falls that is a 0.6-mile walk from the Buck Forest parking lot.
Lake Julia, the largest lake in the forest at 99 acres, can be reached from either the Fawn Lake or Buck Forest access areas. Lake Dense is a short side trip off Conservation Road when going in from the Buck Forest parking lot. Fawn Lake is on the way to Lake Julia if one takes Fawn Lake Road to Conservation Road.
A more strenuous walk is the trail to the top of Cedar Rock and a trail to the top of Stone Mountain, elevation 3,640 feet. Visitors who are up to the challenge will be rewarded by panoramic views in either location. The DuPont State Recreational Forest office may be reached at (828) 877-6527.
Hikers also have plenty to chose from in the city of Brevard. Six miles of new trails are open on the city’s Bracken Mountain property, which is adjacent to the Brevard Music Center and overlooks downtown.
One trail is a 4-mile loop around the mountain. This 5-foot-wide trail includes three bridges and access to two small cascades. The 2-mile trail connects the mountain trail with Forest Road 475C. This allows hikers and mountain bikers to travel directly to the Pisgah Wildlife Education Center in Pisgah National Forest.
The city of Brevard also has roughly 6 miles of multi-use paths, which can take hikers from downtown into the national forest. In the western part of the county, Panthertown Valley is another popular destination. Schoolhouse Falls is probably the most popular hike, offering a beautiful waterfall and an excellent spot for a picnic or a swim.
Other hiking options include the Shut-In Trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway from milepost 393.6 to milepost 405.5. These trails range from moderate to difficult. There are also many trails to discover at Graveyard Fields at milepost 418. The Graveyard Fields Loop Trail begins at the overlook. Other trails will take you to waterfalls. The Graveyard Ridge Trail ascends and then travels along Graveyard Ridge itself before ending at the intersection with the Ivestor Gap and Mountains to Sea trails.
Transylvania County also has its own hiking club – Pisgah Hikers (www.pisgahhikers.org) — which was formed in the late 1970s. The group offers something for every fitness level.
NATIONAL TRAILS DAY
National Trails Day first began in 1993 to highlight the importance of the National Trails System and to enhance its quality and accessibility. This year’s National Trails Day will be
June 3. On June 2, Gorges State Park will be hosting a National Trails Day – Volunteer Work Day at the Park Visitor Center. The public is invited to join the park’s naturalist and rangers to work on trails surrounding the Visitor Center. No experience, tools or registration are required. Work will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.