Pisgah National Forest consists of more than 500,000 acres of forest land across Western North Carolina. Pisgah National Forest, established on October 7, 1916 contains beautiful, remote, and rugged terrain that provides some of the most spectacular scenery you can find on the east coast of the United States.
As a result, Pisgah National Forest is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for recreational activities, including hiking, waterfalls, beautiful scenery, rafting, fishing, camping and more. Pisgah National Forest is mainly hardwood forest that contains mile high peaks, whitewater rivers, waterfalls and hundreds of miles of trails to mountain bike and hike.
The land making up Pisgah National Forest includes a large amount of forest in Northern and Central Western North Carolina. Pisgah National Forest is broken up into three separate districts, called “Ranger Districts”.
- Article Index:
- Pisgah Ranger District
- The Grandfather Ranger District
- The Appalachian Ranger District
- Things to do in Pisgah National Forest
- Hiking in Pisgah National Forest
- Pisgah National Forest Waterfalls
- Horseback Riding and Camping
- Rock Climbing
- Pisgah National Forest History
Pisgah Ranger District
The highest point in the Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest is Mount Pisgah, located at MP 408.6 on The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Ranger District extends out on both sides of the Parkway from Mount Pisgah to Brevard, Asheville, and Waynesville.
Something many people don’t know is that the majority of Pisgah National Forest land was once part of Biltmore Estate, and owned by George Vanderbilt (see history below).
The Pisgah Ranger District is well known for it’s vast number of waterfalls, including: Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Skinny Dip Falls, Lower and Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields, Cove Creek Falls, Courthouse Falls, Moore Cove Falls, Turtleback Falls, Cedar Rock Falls, Upper Cedar Rock Falls, Grogan Creek Falls, and many more.
Highway 215 travels between The Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 276 in North Carolina. Highway 215 is full of beautiful and often easy to get to waterfalls, close to the road itself. Waterfalls include: Lower Bubbling Spring Falls, Upper Bubbling Spring Falls, Wildcat Falls, and Sunburst Falls.
The Ranger District is also home to the Cradle of Forestry, a historic area that was the site of the first school of forestry, Biltmore Forest School, founded in 1898. The Cradle of Forestry has lots to see and do for all ages, including exhibits, historic buildings, an old logging stream train engine, three paved hiking trails, and much more.
The Grandfather Ranger District
The highlight of the Grandfather Ranger district of Pisgah National Forest is Grandfather mountain and Linville Gorge. This district runs from northern Asheville to Boone NC. This area of the national forest features very rugged and remote terrain that is popular with rock climbers and long distance and overnight hikers and campers.
Waterfalls in this area include: Catawba Falls and nearby Linville Falls
Popular Hiking Areas include: Curtis Creek, Linville Gorge, and Wilson Creek.
The Appalachian Ranger District
The Appalachian Ranger Distract lands run along the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina, and lies northeast of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The most predominant area in the Appalachian Ranger District is Max Patch, which offers high elevation and 360 degree scenic views, with access to the Appalachian Trail as well.
Also included in this district are Craggy Gardens, north of Asheville on the Parkway, Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in North Carolina, and Roan Highlands, an incredibly scenic and popular area.
Harmon Den, located off I-40 near Tennessee is a popular horse back riding and fishing area.
Hot Springs, a very popular destination known for their natural hot spring tubs, and for hiking is also included in the Appalachian Ranger District.
Waterfalls in this district include: Douglas Falls and Walker Falls.
Things to do in Pisgah National Forest
With more than 500,000 of forest land, things to do and see in Pisgah National Forest are nearly endless. Visitors travel from all over to explore the trails and waterfalls, mountain bike on its mountain bike trails, kayak down its whitewater creeks and rivers, and mountain climb on its peaks.
Pisgah National Forest also has numerous campgrounds, and remote primitive campsites, for those that love to camp.
Here are just a a few of many things you can do in Pisgah National Forest:
Hiking in Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest contains hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The famous Appalachian Trail (shown above), Art Leob trail and Mountains to Sea trail all go through Pisgah National Forest as well.
Pisgah National Forest Waterfalls
Pisgah National Forest, especially the Ranger District is FULL of Waterfalls. Here are a few we’ve visited:
View By Location:
Camping is a very popular activity in Pisgah National Forest, and the park provides a number of different options. These include full service campgrounds, and primitive campgrounds.
Full Service/Hookup Campgrounds: None
Campground Camping (Tent): Black Mountain Campground, Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area, Rocky Bluff Campground, Curtis Creek Campground, Mortimer Campground, Lake Powhatan Campground, Davidson River Recreation Area, North Mills River Campground, Sunburst Campground, Boone Fork Campground (primitive, not maintained)
A large number of “Dispersed” and primitive campsites are located in Pisgah National Forest. These areas include: Big Ivy, Black Mountain, Harmon Den, Hot Springs, Linville Gorge, Wilson Creek, Scenic River Area, and Shining Rock Wilderness. You can find out more about these sites here.
Horseback Riding and Camping
In Pisgah National Forest you can bring your own horse, or take a guided tour from Pisgah Stables. The forest service even provides two different Horsecamps, if you want to stay overnight: Harmon Den Horsecamp, Wolf Ford Horsecamp and Wash Creek Horsecamp.
Both camps provide access to some very nice horse friendly trails, with water access and scenic views. offers access to equestrian trails in the North Mills River, Trace Ridge and Wash Creek areas.
Contact the Pisgah National Forest at (877) 444-6777 for more information and reservations.
Rock climbing is a popular activity in Pisgah National Forest, and climbing options exist for various skill levels. Within Pisgah National Forest, three primary areas provide Rock Climbing options:
- The Linville Gorge Wilderness area
- and Little Lost Cove Cliffs
Of course, only attempt rock climbing if you have the proper training, guides and gear. A fall from one of these areas could be fatal!
Pisgah National Forest History
Established in 1916, Pisgah National Forest was one of the very first national forests located in the Eastern US. The new forest include nearly 87,000 acres that had been part of Biltmore Estate. Edith Vanderbilt sold that land to the federal government in 1914.
Over the years, through additional land purchases and donations, Pisgah National Forest is now more than 500,000 acres.
The Cradle of Forestry (previously Biltmore Forest School) is located in the Ranger District of the Park, and was the first school of forestry in the US. The school operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The school was opened and operated by George Vanderbilt, builder and owner of Biltmore Estate. Today these lands are part of popular recreational and educational center located on Highway 276 near Brevard NC.