Wild Connections: Camping, hiking and picnicking in Pisgah National Forest


By Eden Clymire-Stern, Landon Dillingham, Olivia Delaune, Dylan Edmonds, and JJ Apodaca

The Pisgah National Forest (PNF) encompasses some of the most lush forest area in North Carolina. With such a wide variety of habitat types and covering multiple mountain ranges, this area provides activities for people of all ages and interests. Fishing, swimming, tubing, hiking, camping and picnicking are just a few that you could pursue with in the Pisgah. Because Pisgah National Forest is a protected area, it makes for an ideal vacation spot for families or anyone else looking to get away so leave the iPhones behind and in search of a life-changing experience in the protected lands of Western North Carolina.

Asheville may be known for its lush vegetation and rich species diversity, but it is also teeming with stunning waterfalls, swim holes, and natural rock slides. Pisgah National Forest offers some of the most spectacular water features. Many of the earth’s most stunning natural wonders are hidden from direct view. The falls and swimming holes of Pisgah National Forest can lead you off the beaten path and provide some of the most rewarding scenic attractions. There are also a multitude of family friendly attractions located in the park.

Looking Glass Falls is perhaps its most well-known waterfall, and offers a stunning 60-foot cascade of water. Hike to the falls with family members and wade in the shallow waters at the fall’s base. Drive a few miles down the road and you come to North Carolina’s most popular natural waterslide. Sliding Rock is a wide, 60-foot smooth rock slide into a pool of refreshing water. The site also offers lifeguard protection throughout summer, as well as bathrooms and showers. These resources make for an ideal picnicking location.

There are a number of other locations in Pisgah National Forest suitable for picnicking. Murray Branch, Briar Bottom Group Campground and Silvermine Group Campground all provide beautiful picnicking areas. Some of the picnic areas located in campgrounds have an entrance fee, but they usually have infrastructure such as picknic tables and grills. With so many options, anyone can find the right areas to enjoy the day.

Pisgah Forest has a great many trails and campgrounds that are well maintained for public use. One of the most popular spot for car camping is the Davidson River Campground, which (you guessed it) is right along the Davidson River in Brevard. This spot can sometimes be crowded because of its close proximity to the main road, but the folks camping there are typically very friendly and unobtrusive. This is an excellent campground for families with young children or for those who don’t feel comfortable or prepared for a more rustic backpacking experience and want to enjoy the comfort of having their car or camper close by. Upon arriving at the campground, you will be bombarded in the best way with the multitude of activities available from the natural world.

Many sections of the Davidson River are very gentle and are perfect for tubing. Just up the road from the campground toward Brevard is a tube rental store and Dolly’s Dairy Bar, one of the best ice cream joints in the Southeast. You can stop there, rent some tubes and relax and enjoy an ice cream cone (we highly recommend the wild raspberry) before driving into the campground to start your weekend of camping adventures. The Davidson is also said to be one of the best trout fishing locations in much of the southeast. Many people choose to set up their fishing spot just downstream of the Pisgah Fish Hatchery, which is run by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. (Before fishing here it is important to read up on the fish species in the area and the regulations surrounding them.)

The spring season is the best fishing time all year, multiple varieties of fish begin to forage and move throughout the river. The Davidson river isn’t the only fishing location – there are numerous, fantastic fishing areas but due to the calm waters and plentiful fish. It is the perfect section of river to introduce little ones to fly fishing.

With so many possibilities and options Pisgah National Forest makes for a wonderful weekend outing for all ages. Loading up the kids and some supplies to go on a short hiking trip to any of the gorgeous waterfalls, fishing holes, or camping areas will definitely be worth the hassle. The park is so large that family adventuring does not have to be limited to a single weekend. So get out there and enjoy all of what the Pisgah National park has to offer!

Editor’s note: This column is one in a series produced by Warren Wilson College Environmental Studies faculty member J.J. Apodaca and his students. The goal is give students writing experience while encouraging people to experience, and help preserve, Western North Carolina’s beautiful environment.

1 Comment

Ben May 11, 2015 - 12:57 pm

Way to show love for Pisgah National Forest! Great thoughts from Warren Wilson stellar students!

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