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.
We especially recommend taking the beautiful Andy Cove Nature Trail that begins from the parking lot directly across from the Ranger Station. This .7 mile loop hike is a gem. Easy for all ages, the trail wends its way deep into a picturesque cove on a trail that features several boardwalks and a magical pedestrian swinging bridge. In short, there is no better introduction to Pisgah National Forest.
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 (there is a 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 four-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.