A Week In The Woods: Serious Adventures
Spending a week in Transylvania County invariably leads to this epiphany: “I could spend a lifetime here and still not see all of it.” And you would be absolutely correct. But don’t dwell on this fact. Dive in and see just how exhausted, dirty, sweaty, stinky, sore and, yes, blissful, you can get in just a few days. Choose from the activities below to fill out your week:
Joe Moerschbaecker isn’t content to show you Transylvania County’s legendary waterfalls from a distance. He wants you to become one with them. His company, Pura Vida Adventures, leads canyoneering trips that include rappelling down the face of some of the most beautiful cascades in North America. Exhilaration and safety go hand in hand in these one-of-a-kind excursions. Pura Vida is the only commercially accredited canyoneering company in the eastern U.S.
Backcountry camping in Gorges State Park
There have been lots of recent improvements to this jewel of a state park, including access roads, trailheads, parking areas and a spanking new visitor center. Which means it’s now easier than ever to shuck off civilization and get deep into this spectacular wilderness. Your best bet is to park at the Grassy Ridge parking area and descend to the Horsepasture River. From here, head downriver. The further south you go, the wilder it gets, but you’re sure to find a spot that fits your description of the perfect campsite.
Trail Running Looking Glass Rock
Any reasonably fit hiker can make short work of the Looking Glass Trail, which climbs from the valley floor to the summit of this impressive rock monolith. For a real workout, though, run the trail. It’s 3.1 miles to the top, 6.2 roundtrip. The perfect training length for that upcoming 10k trail run you signed up for.
The Nose, Looking Glass Rock
You can’t come to Looking Glass Rock and not climb this route if you’re capable. It’s very long (about 400 feet) which equates to four pitches. It was the first route ever established on Looking Glass in 1966 and it’s the most popular. A professional local climber had this to say about it: “I’ve climbed it twenty times and everytime I go up, I’m amazed at how good it is.”
Ultimate Road Ride
Most folks think this route gives the best overview of Transylvania County’s scenic wonders. And most of them drive it in a car. But if you love a challenge, saddle up and tackle this 65 mile adventure on your road bike. The natural place to begin is The Hub or Sycamore Cycles, the area’s best bike shops, where you can purchase a spare tube or any extra snacks you might need for the trek. From here, take U.S. 276 through Pisgah National Forest to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn left and enjoy 11.5 miles of smooth roads and stunning scenery before dropping down onto U.S. 215 south through Balsam Grove and back into Brevard on US-64.
The Art Loeb Trail
This trail is named after outdoors activist Art Loeb and 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. There are shelters along the way at Butter Gap and Deep Gap.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Transylvania County during the winter months, be sure to try your hand at ice climbing. Thanks to the abundance of waterfalls and granite rock faces, this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the ideal place to develop your ice climbing skills. Fox Mountain Guides offer expert instruction, one-day single pitch excursions and multi-pitch climbs with an overnight bivouac.
Swank 65 Ride
The Swank 65 is a season-ending mountain bike race that’s become legendary in these parts. But you don’t have to enter the race to experience all the pain and suffering this course dishes out. You can do it on your own or a few of your favorite friends. The course is 38 miles in length, gains approximately 7,000 feet in elevation and includes the famed descent on Farlow Gap. Other trails on the course include Daniel Ridge, Long Branch, Butter Gap and Cove Creek. Here’s the course map.