Brevard and Transylvania County are known as the “Land of Waterfalls.” And with good reason: this awe-inspiring destination boasts over 250 waterfalls, the largest concentration in North America. But that’s just the beginning. Here you’ll find a wide range of extraordinary outdoor opportunities, from hiking and biking to paddling and climbing. Add in the small-town charm of historic Brevard – with its vibrant art, culture, dining and shopping – and you’ve got several more reasons to linger in this magical setting.
Start your day in downtown Brevard. Several inviting restaurants and coffee shops are available to help fuel you and your companions for the day ahead. We suggest you order up a picnic lunch to bring with you: it’s the perfect respite during a day of adventure.
From downtown Brevard, proceed north for approximately 3.5 miles on US64 to the entrance of Pisgah National Forest at the intersection of US276, US64 and NC280.
(If you plan on doing some of the hikes we list in these itineraries, we suggest you stop into The Hub or Sycamore Cycles – both located near the forest entrance – and pick up a Pisgah Ranger District Map by Pisgah Map Company. These maps are accurate, waterproof and will help you navigate our recommended hikes with confidence, as well as many other trails that just might suit your fancy.)
Turn left and head north on US276 into the forest. The picturesque Davidson River, one of the top 100 trout streams in the country, runs along this beautiful stretch of road. At mile 1.5, turn right into the Pisgah District Ranger Station/ Visitor Center to access expert information, interpretive displays and a series of short woodland trails that make for a perfect introduction to Pisgah.
From the ranger station, continue north on US276 for 4.3 miles to Looking Glass Falls, a lovely roadside waterfall. Parking is available on the right side of the road, but it fills up quickly. All the more reason to get an early start on your day. A series of steps brings you down to the base of the falls, where there’s always a refreshingly misty breeze to cool you off.
From Looking Glass Falls, continue north on US276 for 2.1 miles to the Moore Cove Falls Trail. This easy hike (1.5 miles roundtrip) wanders through fern glens and over rustic boardwalks to a tall, thin cascade in a natural grotto-like setting.
Next stop: famous Sliding Rock, just a short distance further up the road on US276. Like Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock can get very busy. If you’re early enough you can snag a parking spot (per person fee to enter). Bathrooms are open Memorial Day to Labor Day for changing into your swimming gear if you’re brave enough to take the plunge down this 60-foot natural water slide. Not your thing? No worries. Stand along the observation ledge and have a blast watching others make this thrilling run, which ends in a bracingly cold pool at the bottom.
Next up on your journey along US276 is the Cradle of Forestry and Forest Discovery Center. Located a five-minute drive north of Sliding Rock, the Cradle features a café that serves lunch. If you brought a picnic, there are several spots on the grounds to enjoy a well-deserved meal.
After lunch, explore the walking trails on the campus that lead to several historic buildings associated with America’s very first forestry school, including a 1914 Climax locomotive. At the Forest Discovery Center you’ll learn firsthand how George Vanderbilt and Carl Schenck laid the groundwork for sustainable forestry in the U.S. through 15 hands-on exhibits and a compelling short film, First in Forestry.
From the Cradle of Forestry, it’s a brief five-mile drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The options from here are endless, but we recommend you head north on the Parkway and end your day at the Pisgah Inn, (Milepost 408.6) one of only two accommodations located on the Parkway. The Pisgah Inn serves up spectacular views from every room and appetizing meals at their restaurant and café. Rooms for this popular Inn fill up quickly, so we urge you to make reservations well in advance.
You can while away the day’s last light on the Pisgah Inn’s Observation Deck taking in the panoramic views or, if you’re up for one more adventure, head a short distance north on the Parkway (Milepost 407.6) to a parking area for the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Pisgah. It’s a strenuous three-mile hike (roundtrip), but the views are well worth it. If that’s a bit too much for you, nearby Frying Pan Tower (at Milepost 409.6) is a shorter, easier walk totaling just 1.5 miles with a rewarding view from a retired fire tower.
If you’ve overnighted at the Pisgah Inn, it’s a breeze to continue your Brevard and Transylvania County adventure. After a hearty breakfast at the Pisgah Inn, we suggest a morning constitutional. There are several outstanding options from which to choose:
Located at Milepost 418.8, Graveyard Fields offers multiple trails (and bathroom facilities) that feature picturesque waterfalls located along Yellowstone Prong. A short downhill trail will take you to Lower Falls. If you’re feeling adventurous, the three-mile Graveyard Fields loop will take you to Upper Falls as well.
Black Balsam Knob
Heading south, between Milepost 420 and 421, turn right on Forest Service Road 816. Parking areas begin alongside the road soon after. Be sure to park entirely off the road. Motorists who do not follow the rules can be ticketed. At 7/10 of a mile you’ll see the first trailhead on your right. Other trailheads begin at the end of the road (where you’ll also find bathroom facilities).
The trails in this area meander along spectacular mountain balds, offering up 360-degree views. You can hike all the way up to Black Balsam Knob, which tops out at 6,214 feet. There are 40 peaks in North Carolina over 6,000 feet and Black Balsam Knob is the 23rd highest. The views you’ll see on even a short walk on one of the well-marked trails will make it worth the effort.
Located at Milepost 422.4, Devil’s Courthouse is another destination offering jaw-dropping views. While it’s only a ½ mile walk (along a mostly paved trail) to the top, the trail is steep. However, the overlook area at the top delivers commanding views. And on a very clear day, you can actually glimpse four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
Even if you’re not inclined to hike, you’re in luck. From the Pisgah Inn all the way to the Parkway’s intersection with NC215, there are multiple overlooks where it’s possible to enjoy the view. Notable stops (in addition to Graveyard Fields and Devil’s Courthouse) include Funnel Top (409.3), Cold Mountain (411.9), Pounding Mill (413.2), Looking Glass Rock (417), and John Rock (419.4).
At Milepost 423.2, depart the Blue Ridge Parkway to the southeast and begin a dizzying descent on NC215. In 9.4 miles, you’ll come to the tiny community of Balsam Grove. It’s here that you’ll discover one of our favorite secret waterfall locations. On the right, look for the Living Waters Retreat Center. Beyond the center, there is room to pull off the road next to the guard rails. (The Retreat Center kindly requests that you do not park in their lot.) A very short hike (less than 100 feet) takes you to the French Broad River and Mill Shoals Falls. Next, follow the trail that runs alongside the North Fork of the French Broad River for .3 miles for a spectacular surprise: Bird Rock Falls (also known as Cathedral Falls): a massive granite outcropping looms over this awe-inspiring waterfall.
After a morning of hiking and waterfall hunting, it’s time for a break. Although refreshment options are limited in this area, we have just the spot: Forks of the River Taproom at Headwaters Outfitters, at the intersection of NC215 and US64. In addition to a dozen taps dedicated to local beers, ciders and ales, Forks of the River is often home to one of the area’s popular food-trucks. See who’s serving up tasty fare here.
From here, your options are almost limitless. If the sight of all this running water tempts you to get on the water, you’re already at the perfect spot. Headwaters Outfitters offers multiple paddling excursions on the serene French Broad River. You can spend the balance of the afternoon on the water – or continue your journey back to Brevard.
Once you’ve arrived in Brevard, we urge you to get your feet on the street. Named one of the “coolest small towns in America” by Budget Travel, downtown Brevard brims with galleries, shops and plenty of free parking. O.P. Taylors, D.D. Bullwinkels, Gravy, Hunters & Gatherers, Brevard Clay, Local Color, Theophilus and Number 7 Artist’s Co-op are just a few of the great places you should check out. For a complete list of downtown Brevard’s fun and eclectic merchants, go here.
Brevard also boasts a vibrant dining scene. For dinner, check out our restaurant listings to find the perfect choice to make your tastebuds happy. Afterwards, there’s no shortage of great entertainment options. First stop, the Explore Brevard events calendar. It showcases the most complete listing of concerts, shindigs, jam sessions and more.
When it comes time to bed down for the evening, Brevard and Transylvania County offer a plethora of relaxing accommodations options. From quaint B&B’s to rustic cabins to full-service hotels, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to unwind and plan the next day’s adventures. Scout out our many accommodations here.
Of course, two days in Transylvania County is never enough. If your schedule allows, we encourage you to extend your stay by making Brevard your base camp for excursions further afield. You could spend an entire day exploring our renowned public lands, including Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Recreational Forest or Gorges State Park. If you’re in town between early June and early August, an evening at Brevard Music Center makes for an unforgettable experience with classical and popular music programs performed under the stars. If you’re a history buff, stops at the Allison-Deaver House, Silvermont Mansion, Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas and the Transylvania Heritage Museum are all worthwhile endeavors.
Need help making a plan? The volunteers at our full-service Visitor Center have all the answers. The Visitor Center is conveniently located 175 E. Main St. in downtown Brevard. Or call (800) 648-4523. You can also plan in advance by visiting ExploreBrevard.com.
Note: For the most up-to-date travel information (including current COVID-19 protocols) please visit here.