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Insider Tips: Hikes

Easy Hikes

PINK BEDS LOOP

Pisgah National Forest

Here’s your chance to marvel at the capabilities of the irrepressible “Castor canadensis,” more commonly referred to as the North American beaver, to transform a landscape. This mostly flat trail works around bogs and ponds created by these industrious engineers. This high-elevation valley is ideal for a casual ramble. You’ll see lots of native flowers and ferns along the way. If you have time, be sure to visit the Forest Discovery Center at the nearby Cradle of Forestry.

Distance: 4.3 miles

Trail: Pink Beds Loop

Starting Point: Picnic area of Pink Beds

Directions: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 11.4 miles on US-276 North. Turn right into Pink Beds Picnic Area.

For a more detailed description and directions go here. 

Google Directions

RAINBOW FALLS

Nantahala National Forest

(with access from Gorges State Park)

Recent improvements at Gorges State Park have made this excursion a delight. From the parking area at Grassy Ridge, the well-groomed trail descends to the stunning Horsepasture River. When you reach the river, turn right. The trail becomes steeper, but the effort is worth it. The trail skirts around Rainbow Falls, offering up a great view. If you’ve got energy to burn, continue up river to Turtle Back Falls and Drift Falls — a waterfall trifecta!

Distance: 3.8 miles roundtrip

Trails: Grassy Ridge Access

Starting Point: Grassy Ridge Parking Area, Gorges State Park.

Directions to trailhead: From downtown Brevard, go west on US-64  toward Sapphire for 18.2 miles. Turn left on NC-281 and go .7 miles. Turn left into park entrance. Proceed to the Grassy Ridge parking lot.

Google Directions

JOHN ROCK

Pisgah National Forest

John Rock is a local favorite and with good reason. This well-marked loop summits along the smooth granite face of John Rock and affords breathtaking views of Looking Glass Rock and the distant ridgeline of the Pisgah Range to the northwest. The trail offers a nice combination of flat walking and rigorous climbs. Bring a picnic lunch in your day pack. The face of John Rock is a great place to soak in the views and enjoy some al fresco dining. But be careful. When wet, John Rock can be treacherous. It’s a 200 foot drop to the rocks below. And if you bring your dog, be sure he or she is leashed at all times around the summit.

Distance: 5 miles

Trails: Cat Gap Loop, Cat Gap Bypass, John Rock

Starting Point: Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, Pisgah Forest

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles on US-276. Turn left onto FR-475 and go 1.4 miles. Turn left into parking lot for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

For a more detailed description and directions go here.

Google Directions

ART LOEB TRAIL

Named after outdoors activist Art Loeb, this trail stretches 31 miles across what seems like the rim of the earth. In fact, that’s one of the delights of this trail:  it’s a ridgeline route that offers up one exhilarating vista after another. Accessible from many points in Pisgah National Forest, the trail lends itself to a number of manageable loops. But if you want  to go epic, park one car at Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp in Haywood County and another car at Davidson River Campground where your journey will begin. Plan on at least one night of camping to make this trek. Fortunately, there are shelters along the way at Butter Gap and Deep Gap.

Distance: 30.1miles

Trails: Art Loeb Trail (part of the Mountains to Sea trail)

Starting Point: Davidson River Campground

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 1.3 miles on US-276 to the Davidson River Campground.

Google Directions

SCULPTURE TOUR

Downtown Brevard

If you want to know where the wild things are, you don’t always have to venture into the woods. This urban walk features wild turkey, fox, panther, black bear, chipmunks and even white squirrels. Seventeen different sculptures, rendered in steel, bronze, copper, marble and stone make up this delightful downtown stroll. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the native species that populate our forests before you actually head into the woods.

Distance: 1-3 miles (depending on your route)

Trail: No set route. Use the guide link below to chart your course

Starting Point: Main Street, Downtown Brevard

More information available (PDF).

Google Directions

SYCAMORE COVE TRAIL

Pisgah National Forest

Easy to get to and a pleasure to walk, the Sycamore Cove Trail is a family-friendly loop. You’ll do some climbing along the way, but the combination of woods and water make for a relaxing journey. Sycamore Cove Trail is also one of the easiest and quickest trails you can access in Pisgah National Forest.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Trails: Sycamore Cove

Starting Point: Art Loeb Trailhead Parking Lot, Pisgah National Forest.

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 1.4 miles. Turn left on the Davidson River Campground Access Road. Park at the Art Loeb Trailhead Parking Lot. To access the trail, cross US-276 and enter the trailhead, situated between two utility boxes. This is a blue blazed trail.

Google Directions

BENNETT GAP

Pisgah National Forest

This is a loop and connector route that starts at the Coontree Picnic Area and hooks up with the Bennett Gap trail. Our favorite trails always have a reward, and Bennett Gap delivers with some terrific views of Looking Glass and the surrounding mountains. Early on, the trail parallels Coontree Creek before linking to Bennett Gap. This is a half-day hike (3.5 to 4 hours) so be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.

Distance: 6.6 miles

Trails: Coontree Creek (144), Bennett Gap (138)

Starting Point: Coontree Picnic Area

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 4.8 miles on US-276 to the Coontree Picnic Area. The trailhead is across US-276.

Moderate Hikes

RAINBOW FALLS

Nantahala National Forest

(with access from Gorges State Park)

Recent improvements at Gorges State Park have made this excursion a delight. From the parking area at Grassy Ridge, the well-groomed trail descends to the stunning Horsepasture River. When you reach the river, turn right. The trail becomes steeper, but the effort is worth it. The trail skirts around Rainbow Falls, offering up a great view. If you’ve got energy to burn, continue up river to Turtle Back Falls and Drift Falls — a waterfall trifecta!

Distance: 3.8 miles roundtrip

Trails: Grassy Ridge Access

Starting Point: Grassy Ridge Parking Area, Gorges State Park.

Directions to trailhead: From downtown Brevard, go west on US-64  toward Sapphire for 18.2 miles. Turn left on NC-281 and go .7 miles. Turn left into park entrance. Proceed to the Grassy Ridge parking lot.

Google Directions

SYCAMORE COVE TRAIL

Pisgah National Forest

Easy to get to and a pleasure to walk, the Sycamore Cove Trail is a family-friendly loop. You’ll do some climbing along the way, but the combination of woods and water make for a relaxing journey. Sycamore Cove Trail is also one of the easiest and quickest trails you can access in Pisgah National Forest.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Trails: Sycamore Cove

Starting Point: Art Loeb Trailhead Parking Lot, Pisgah National Forest.

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 1.4 miles. Turn left on the Davidson River Campground Access Road. Park at the Art Loeb Trailhead Parking Lot. To access the trail, cross US-276 and enter the trailhead, situated between two utility boxes. This is a blue blazed trail.

Strenuous Hikes

JOHN ROCK

Pisgah National Forest

John Rock is a local favorite and with good reason. This well-marked loop summits along the smooth granite face of John Rock and affords breathtaking views of Looking Glass Rock and the distant ridgeline of the Pisgah Range to the northwest. The trail offers a nice combination of flat walking and rigorous climbs. Bring a picnic lunch in your day pack. The face of John Rock is a great place to soak in the views and enjoy some al fresco dining. But be careful. When wet, John Rock can be treacherous. It’s a 200 foot drop to the rocks below. And if you bring your dog, be sure he or she is leashed at all times around the summit.

Distance: 5 miles

Trails: Cat Gap Loop, Cat Gap Bypass, John Rock

Starting Point: Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, Pisgah Forest

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles on US-276. Turn left onto FR-475 and go 1.4 miles. Turn left into parking lot for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

For a more detailed description and directions go here.

Google Directions

BENNETT GAP

Pisgah National Forest

This is a loop and connector route that starts at the Coontree Picnic Area and hooks up with the Bennett Gap trail. Our favorite trails always have a reward, and Bennett Gap delivers with some terrific views of Looking Glass and the surrounding mountains. Early on, the trail parallels Coontree Creek before linking to Bennett Gap. This is a half-day hike (3.5 to 4 hours) so be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.

Distance: 6.6 miles

Trails: Coontree Creek (144), Bennett Gap (138)

Starting Point: Coontree Picnic Area

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 4.8 miles on US-276 to the Coontree Picnic Area. The trailhead is across US-276.

Epic Hikes

ART LOEB TRAIL

Named after outdoors activist Art Loeb, this trail stretches 31 miles across what seems like the rim of the earth. In fact, that’s one of the delights of this trail:  it’s a ridgeline route that offers up one exhilarating vista after another. Accessible from many points in Pisgah National Forest, the trail lends itself to a number of manageable loops. But if you want  to go epic, park one car at Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp in Haywood County and another car at Davidson River Campground where your journey will begin. Plan on at least one night of camping to make this trek. Fortunately, there are shelters along the way at Butter Gap and Deep Gap.

Distance: 30.1miles

Trails: Art Loeb Trail (part of the Mountains to Sea trail)

Starting Point: Davidson River Campground

Directions to trailhead: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go 1.3 miles on US-276 to the Davidson River Campground.

Google Directions