Classic hikes in the Pisgah Ranger District showcasing pristine waterfalls, high mountain peaks, and sweeping vistas.
Pisgah National Forest is the oldest of its kind in the eastern United States and home to some of the best hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The forest is divided into three districts: Pisgah, Appalachian, and Grandfather. While each corner is loaded with incredible hikes, the Pisgah Ranger District is located southwest of Asheville and is frequented by visitors in Brevard. Some of these hikes originate closer to Brevard, while others can be found higher in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you’ve never been to Pisgah, start with Looking Glass Rock or John Rock. Both begin less than 20 minutes from Brevard and offer incredible views from exposed slickrock vistas. Each should take less than 3 hours and showcase two of the most iconic vistas in the forest. The silhouette of Looking Glass Rock often makes its way into publications or guidebooks, and is even the front cover of a local map.
If you have younger children along for the ride, pay a visit to the historic Pink Beds Picnic Area. The Cradle of Forestry in America is adjacent to it and offers several exhibits and easier hikes. The Pink Beds Loop is just 5 miles total and is considered one of the easier and attainable hikes in the forest.
Heading deeper into the forest, hikes like Slate Rock and Cedar Rock provide incredible views of the Balsam Range, but at a cost. Both trudge deep into the forest and include significant elevation change and remote settings. Cedar Rock has two steep rock faces that require you to utilize fixed ropes to navigate the slope.
If you’ve hit all the local classics, check out Sycamore Cove, Coontree Loop, or Turkey Pen. Lesser visited than others, they offer an experience of their own and all include a nearby river or stream to jump in along the way.
If you make your way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sam Knob and Black Balsam are two iconic hikes in the Great Balsam Range with incredible panoramic views from nearly 6,000’. Skinny Dip Falls, Graveyard Fields, and Devil’s Courthouse are just a short drive away and offer phenomenal high-mountain hikes with minimal effort involved.
The final two pieces to the puzzle are best enjoyed at sunset or sunrise. Fryingpan Mountain offers incredible views from its namesake fire tower, and Mount Pisgah offers sweeping views of the entire Pisgah Ranger District from an observation deck atop its summit.