More than 2 million visitors each year come to the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest and that number is growing each year. With more than 160,000 acres, the district is known nationally for its outstanding recreation opportunities and spectacular diversity of plant and animal life. Of the 160,000 acres that make up the Pisgah Ranger District, 88,300 of them are in Transylvania County. The district has about 400 miles of trails, 180 miles of which are open to mountain biking, and 100 miles of trails for horseback riding.
From the Pisgah Forest business community, U.S. 276 winds its way through the district’s
heart, going deeper into the forest and stretching roughly 15 miles to connect with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Part of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, this route has been named a National Scenic Byway, the highest designation a road can receive in the United States. The Pisgah Ranger Station/Visitor Center has forest information, exhibits, educational movies and a gift shop. A Monarch Waystation is also located in the center’s gardens. Monarch Waystations provide milkweed, nectar sources and shelter needed to sustain mnarch butterflies as they migrate across North America. There is also a very active hummingbird population every summer at the visitor center
The forest came into being after the Vanderbilt family sold a tract of land from the original Biltmore Estate to the United States government in 1914.
The district is also the home of the first school of forestry in the United States, now preserved at the Cradle of Forestry in America heritage site. More than 6,500 acres were designated by Congress to showcase forestry and resource management. The Pink Beds Picnic Area and Loop Trail feature an elevated boardwalk and excellent day-hiking opportunities. At the main entrance off U.S. 276 one can experience the Discovery Center (exhibits, bookstore, movie theater, café) and more than 3 miles of paved accessible trails for families with strollers and wheelchairs to explore the forest up close.
A new app has been developed in 2018 that is designed to entertain and educate visitors as they walk through the forest. Campers have four developed campgrounds to choose from in the district, including the Davidson River Campground, open year round. Developed picnic sites include Sycamore Flats and Coontree. Picnic shelters may be reserved at both Sycamore Flats and Pink Beds.
For more information, stop by the Pisgah Ranger Station and Visitor Center, located a mile from the forest entrance on U.S. 276, or call (828) 877-3265. To make a camping reservation at developed campsites, or picnic shelter reservations, call (877) 444-6777 or go to www.recreation.gov.
ADDITIONAL PISGAH SPOTLIGHTS
The Andy Cove Nature Trail, which is designated as a National Recreation Trail, is located behind the Ranger Station/Visitor Center. The trail has a swinging bridge that excites both young and old. The Ranger Station/Visitor Center is located about 1 mile off U.S. 276 from the forest entrance in Pisgah Forest.
Looking Glass Rock With an elevation of 3,969 feet, Looking Glass Rock is a massive dome-like, granite out-cropping that provides spectacular views and is a regional destination for technical rock climbers. The roughly 3.1-mile hike to the summit is moderate to strenuous (and lots of fun coming down!). From the forest entrance in Pisgah Forest, travel about 5.3 miles on U.S. 276 and then turn left at the sign for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education Center. Look for the trailhead on the right less than half-a-mile from the turn.
The Pisgah Conservancy A relatively new organization, The Pisgah Conservancy, has been formed to raise money and support Pisgah National Forest. The Pisgah Conservancy has established an advisory council that has identified the greatest needs of the forest, focusing on six main goals: supporting more sustainable recreation as it pertain to trails; improving water shed quality; removing invasive species; getting rid of waste, litter and graffiti; improving wildlife habitat; and teaching people what is here and how to appreciate it in a more sustainable fashion. For more information, go to www.pisgahconservancy.org.