First Timer’s Guide to the Pisgah Ranger District

Pisgah National Forest is a key attraction in Western North Carolina. The Forest has over 500,000 acres of spectacular mountains, waterfalls, and trails to explore. Because the park is so large and there is so much to do, first-time visitors may feel overwhelmed. Here is our First Timer’s Guide to the Pisgah Ranger District in Pisgah National Forest.

Note: Pisgah is broken into two non-contiguous areas: The Pisgah Ranger District and the Grandfather/Appalachian Ranger District. The Pisgah Ranger District is southwest of Asheville, while the Grandfather/Appalachian Districts are north and east of Asheville. This post focuses only on the Pisgah Ranger District.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Pisgah Region of the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway straddles the peaks along the interior of the Pisgah Ranger District. This amazing scenic drive is one of the most-traveled routes within the National Park Service. The Pisgah section of the Parkway starts at mile 339.5 (just west of Little Switzerland) and runs to the end of the parkway at mile 469.1. This region features spectacular mountain views, waterfalls, and lots of hiking trails. Key highlights not to be missed include Graveyard Fields, Devil’s Courthouse, and Waterrock Knob. First-time visitors should plan to spend at least half a day exploring the Parkway – a full day if you plan to take in any hiking trails along the way. INSIDER TIP: Be sure to bring one of our picnic lunches and a full tank of gas when you head to the Parkway; there are very few services on the Parkway. 

Moor Cove Falls

Along Highway 276

This curving highway connects Waynesville and Brevard (the White Squirrel Capital of the World). This popular route boasts spectacular hiking routes, waterfalls, and stunning views. Traveling west to east, the first major hiking trail travelers will encounter is Shining Creek Trail. This trailhead provides access to the vast Shining Rock Wilderness Area, full of spectacular mountains, trails, and water features. A bit further, Highway 276 intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway, providing great access to lunch or snacks at the Pisgah Inn and for hiking the Mount Pisgah Trailhead.

From the Parkway, 276 descends to the Pink Beds Loop Trail, an easy 3-mile loop hike. This stunningly beautiful forest full of hardwood trees is especially popular when the rhododendron is in bloom. Just past Pink Beds is the Cradle of Forestry in America, a museum dedicated to the Biltmore Forestry School that was once established there. A few miles down the road is the famed Sliding Rock, one of the best places to enjoy splashing around on a hot summer day. (Please note that this family-friendly waterfall can become very busy in the summer!) After a short drive further down 276, a short hike from the parking area will bring you to Moore Cove Falls, a tall, delicate waterfall. The next highlight is Looking Glass Falls, one of the most famous of the local waterfalls. Be careful as the steps down to the falls can be slippery! INSIDER TIP: Be sure to take your time when driving this very winding stretch of highway; bikers and cyclists often train on this stretch of road – stay alert! 

The Yellow House

Our luxurious Waynesville bed and breakfast makes a perfect home base for those exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pisgah Ranger District. Book one of our romantic suites and relax in one of our jetted tubs after a day of exploring. Enjoy our homemade three-course breakfast each morning, and enjoy a glass of wine while soaking in our quiet mountain views each evening.