If you're an outdoor enthusiast, Pisgah National Forest is for you, with more than 500,000 acres to explore in Western North Carolina. Pisgah National Forest literally surrounds Asheville, and much of the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway travel through it.
There are hundreds of hiking trails and waterfalls to explore, numerous campgrounds, visitor centers, and much much more. Outdoor adventures can hike, rock climb, camp, fish, backpack, and mountain bike.
This guide highlights our picks for the Top 18 Pisgah National Forest Hiking Trails. For more information on Pisgah National Forest, see our Pisgah National Forest Guide.
Graveyard Fields Trail
Graveyard Fields at MP418.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is one of the most popular locations on the Parkway, a for good reason, the area has creeks, waterfalls, wild blue berries, beautiful Fall colors, and lots of great hiking trails.
Graveyard Fields, named as a result of a stumps from trees, that remained after a storm that blew through the area many years ago. Over the years, the stumps grew moss on them, and from a distance resembled tombstones.
The trail takes you to two different waterfalls, Lower and Upper Falls and also through the unique vegetation found at Graveyard Fields, which includes lots of blueberry bushes. This hike is wonderful year-round, but especially during the Fall.
Art Loeb/Black Balsam Knob Trail
The Art Loeb trail is one of the many different long trails through Pisgah National Forest. While not long like the Appalachian Trail or Mountains to Sea Trail, it does offer multi-day hikes, with over night stays. The trail begins near Brevard NC, and ends at the famous Cold Mountain.
Most people hike portions of the Art Loeb trail, rather than the entire trail, and one of the most popular and beautiful sections is to Black Balsam Knob. The hike begins where the Art Loeb trail crosses the Black Balsam Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP420, near Graveyard Fields.
The hike begins in a beautiful forest, and then opens up to clear ridges (balds), that offer exceptional views, nearly 360 degrees for the entire hike up to the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
Cat Gap Trail to Three Waterfalls
Cat Gap Trail, which begins at the Pisgah National Forest Nature Center, is not only a nice hike, but the gateway to three really scenic waterfalls, and another great hike up to the top of John Rock for incredible views.
Hiking along Cat Gap Trail, you will pass by Cedar Rock Falls, Upper Cedar Rock Falls, and then if you don't mind going a bit further, Grogan Creek Falls. You can also stay on Cat Gap Loop, and hike up the trail to the top of John Rock, for incredible views of Looking Glass Rock and the surrounding mountains.
Moore Cove Falls
Moore Cove Falls Trail, is a moderate and short trail, that makes for a great family hike and waterfall visit. As a result, it's very popular with people visiting the area.
The trail follows a small creek nearly the entire way to Moore Cove Falls. Moore Cove Falls itself has a nice viewing platform, and for those more adventurous, you can walk down to the bottom of the falls and even stand in/under it.
Moore Cove Falls itself is about 50' in height, and is really pretty, especially when the sunlight is shining through it.
Avery Creek Falls Trail
The hike to Avery Creek Falls is a fun adventure, as you'll not only get to hike the moderate and family-friendly trail to the falls, but you'll get to drive along a forest service road a good distance as well. Forest service roads are always an adventure!
Avery Creek Falls Trail, is off of Forest Service Road FR477, a dirt/gravel road, that definitely has its share of bumps and pot holes. The trail itself descends from the service road 0.5 miles down to Avery Creek Falls, a really pretty waterfall. There are plenty of places for the adults and kids to wade in the cool water as well.
To make this a longer hike, continue on the trail to Twin Falls.
Buckhorn Gap Trail to Twin Falls
Twin Falls are two waterfalls located very near each other. The hike to the Falls is wonderful, full of creeks and wildflowers, especially in the spring. The waterfalls themselves are difficult to see and reach due to fallen trees and debris, but still nice to find and visit.
This is a great hike to extend the short hike to Avery Creek Falls, and allows you to not only take a pretty wooded hike, but to see three waterfalls as well.
Max Patch and the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian trail travels through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and then through Max Patch. You can hike up to the top of Max Patch, for 360 degree long distance views of the surrounding Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Appalachian Trail travels across the ridge over Max Patch, allowing you to walk along this famous 2,190 mile long trail that goes from Georgia to Maine. Max Patch has a short loop and a longer loop around the lower portion of the mountain. Both are excellent trails, with lots to see, including wildflowers.
Max Patch has been the victim of human misuse recently, so always practice Leave No Trace, and hike out what you hike in. Let's keep this beautiful place pristine out of respect, and so that our children and grandchildren for many years to come can enjoy it!
Pink Beds Trail
Pink Beds Trail is located in the Cradle of Forrestry area of Pisgah National Forest, and is a popular hike with visitors, due to the relatively flat and moderate hike. Pink Beds is a great trail for families, and for those wanting to hike, but may be less experienced or conditioned.
The trail is a 5 mile loop hike, however it can be shortened using a cut-through trail. Along the trail you'll find beautiful woods, a "bog" like area, formed as the result of a beaver dam, and lots of wildflowers. The forest service has built a boardwalk in the beaver dam area to keep you dry, and to make hiking it easier.
Looking Glass Rock Trail
Looking Glass Rock is one of the more unique and iconic mountains you'll see when you travel the Blue Ridge Parkway between Waynesville and Asheville NC. The rock is named for the ice formations that form during the winter over the steep rocky cliffs. From a distance, and with morning sun, the mountain looks like a looking glass.
What many don't realize is that you can hike a trail to the top, that provides incredible scenic views of the surrounding mountains.
The trailhead is near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery and on the same road. You'll see the trailhead on the right, shortly after turning off Highway 276. The trail is 6.5 miles and begins creekside and wooded, but quickly begins a moderate climb to the top, via a number of switchbacks. When you reach the summit, there will be no views, but keep going to the cliffs, for outstanding views. Just don't get too close, a fall from here would be deadly.
John Rock Loop Trail
John Rock Loop Trail is a 5 mile loop trail that will take you by waterfalls, and to the top of John Rock for tremendous views of the surrounding mountains, including Looking Glass Rock. The hike follows the same trail as Cedar Rock Falls, however you'll veer off at the John Rock Loop trail marker.
The hike begins at Forest Service Road 475C, in the Wildlife Center parking area. The section to the John Rock trail sign is relatively flat, and crosses over streams a few times. The section at the John Rock trail sign begins the steepest portion of the hike. The trail will take you the top of John Rock, and then continues back down to Cat Gap and to the parking area.
Be very careful at the top, as you will be on the edge of a 200 foot or more drop. One slip could be deadly.
Mount Pisgah Trail
A popular stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Mount Pisgah. The Mount Pisgah trail will take you the summit Mount Pisgah at 5,721 feet. The moderate to strenuous trail is 2.6 miles roundtrip, but offers beautiful views at the top, and beautiful hiking on the way up.
The trailhead is located near milepost 407, off the Mount Pisgah parking area, near the famous Pisgah Inn. Mount Pisgah is one of the most visible mountains in the area, and especially from Asheville.
Top 18 Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Looking for great hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway? There are plenty of them!
See our top 18 picks for hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Mount Mitchell Trail
Want to enjoy the views from the highest mountain in NC? Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, AND the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River, at 6,684 feet. The mountain and trail to the summit offer incredible views on clear days.
The forest surrounding the bald is exceptional as well, and full of balsam trees that smell wonderful. While a busy area, hiking through the Balsam forest will make you feel like you are hundreds of miles from nowhere.
The first portion of the hike climbs to the summit of Mount Mitchell, and is along a paved trail. From the summit, the hike loops and goes through the high-elevation balsam forest.
Frying Pan Lookout Tower
Hike to the top of an old fire lookout tower for incredible views, and a unique adventure. Frying Pan Lookout Tower off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a1.5 mile round-trip hike will take you to the historic Frying Pan Fire Lookout Tower. You can walk almost almost to the top for incredible scenic views. The top level of locked. Elevation at the tower, is 5,340 feet.
The trailhead/service road is located at milepost 409.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You'll park at the entrance to Forest Service Road 450, which is always locked.
Sam's Knob Trail
A really great summit hike, located in Pisgah National Forest, and off the Blue Ridge Parkway is Sam's Knob. The hike begins from the very back of the Black Balsam area of the Parkway, and takes you through a beautiful meadow, full of flowers.
After the meadow, the relatively flat trail begins to ascend up Sam's Knob, and is moderate to strenuous. The views on the way up, and at the top of beautiful, and while not 360, they are large and long distance.
For a longer hike, continue around Flat Laurel Creek Loop.
Flat Laurel Creek to Wildcat Falls
Follow an old railroad grade through Pisgah National Forest to Wildcat Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a the lower portion of the Flat Laurel Creek hike that includes Sam's Knob mentioned above.
This hike is creekside, moderate, and takes you through some beautiful forest on your way to the beautiful Wildcat Falls. What's unique about Wildcat Falls is an old concrete bridge that crosses over the falls, and is part of the trail. You can also explore the lower portion of the falls as well.
Courthouse Falls Trail
Visiting Courthouse Falls, off highway 215 in North Carolina is an adventure. You'll travel about 5 miles along an old forest service road, and pass many different, and beautiful creek crossings you can explore.
The hike to the Falls itself is short, but creekside, and absolutely wonderful, especially in the Fall, during the peak color season. The hike to the falls is less than 1/2 mile.
Courthouse Falls itself is more than 50 feet tall, and plunges into deep basin below. This is a popular spot in the summer for wading and swimming.
Seniard Ridge Trail to Discovery Falls
Discovery Falls is a beautiful, but difficult to photograph waterfall located in Pisgah National Forest. The hike to the Falls is moderate and is primarily along an old logging road, so the trail is easy to follow and wide.
You'll definitely want to try to visit after rainfall, so the flow is good. There are two additional waterfalls can be accessed on this same trail, Log Hollow Falls, and Logging Road Falls and adding these two additional falls, makes for a longer and better hike.
Cove Creek Loop Trail and Cove Creek Falls
The trail begins at the Cove Creek Group campground, off forest service road FR475. Along the way, and into the campground, you'll come to a small "sliding rock" area, that is often full of families and kids sliding down the rocks into the water. You'll continue on the trail to Cove Creek Falls, which is pretty and relaxing 50' tall cascading waterfall.
Hikers can elect to turn back, or continue on the loop trail for a longer, more wooded hike.
Craggy Pinnacle Trail
Craggy Pinnacle trail, is a fairly short and moderate hike in the popular Craggy Gardens area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Asheville NC. The trail leads you through tunnels of Rhododendron, to the top of Craggy where you have nearly 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and Asheville.
At the top is a viewing platform, and be sure to follow some of the smaller side trails as well, as they lead to some really pretty views. Visiting in June, when the Rhododendron are blooming is a real treat!
Skinny Dip Falls Trail
Just a short 1/2 mile hike, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, into Pisgah National Forest, delivers what seems like a Tropical Oasis (ok, so the water is a little colder ...). Skinny Dip Falls is not just a popular swimming hole, but a beautiful place as well.
While these days you, you won't see any Skinny Dipping (at least when we've been there), you will see lots of people and kids swimming and jumping into the water. There is a long bridge across the creek, that provides for nice views of the falls, and a fun crossing.
Be sure to get a photo with the "Dragon Tree" on the way down!