Nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest is a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 500,000 acres of breathtaking wilderness, the forest offers a variety of trails for hikers of all skill levels.
From the highest peak in the eastern United States to serene riverside strolls, there’s something for everyone.
Join us as we recount our adventure through 9 of our favorite trails in Pisgah National Forest, inspired by the recommendations from AllTrails, Asheville Trails, and Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide!
Mount Mitchell Trail (Hard)
The Mount Mitchell Trail is an epic adventure for experienced hikers, taking you to the summit of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
At an elevation of 6,684 feet, the summit provides awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
This 11.4-mile round trip trek is challenging but rewarding, with lush forests, rocky terrain, and occasional wildlife sightings.
The trail begins at the Black Mountain Campground and follows the ridgeline, climbing steadily through a variety of ecosystems.
Make sure to pack layers and be prepared for the temperature drop as you climb higher. A visit to the Mount Mitchell State Park observation deck is a must for capturing the majestic vistas.
Looking Glass Rock Trail (Moderate)
This 6.5-mile round trip hike is perfect for those seeking a moderate challenge with stunning rewards. Named after its unique reflective appearance when wet, Looking Glass Rock is an iconic granite monolith.
The trail takes you through dense forests and rhododendron tunnels before culminating at the top of the rock with breathtaking 360-degree views.
The hike begins at the Looking Glass Rock Trailhead off of US-276, steadily gaining elevation as you progress. Be cautious on the steep sections and watch for falcons that nest in the area!
Grassy Ridge Bald Via the Appalachian Trail (Moderate)
This 5-mile round trip hike along the Appalachian Trail leads to Grassy Ridge Bald, one of the most scenic spots in the Roan Highlands.
The trail takes you through lush forests and open grassy meadows before reaching the bald, where you’re treated to panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
During June and July, the meadows are adorned with colorful wildflowers, making it a photographer’s dream.
Begin your hike at the Carvers Gap parking area, following the Appalachian Trail northbound to reach Grassy Ridge Bald. This trail offers a unique opportunity to hike along the famous Appalachian Trail, even if just for a day.
Graveyard Fields Trail (Moderate)
A popular 3.3-mile loop trail, Graveyard Fields offers diverse landscapes and unique features. The trail meanders through a high valley, complete with waterfalls, wildflower-filled meadows, and a spruce-fir forest.
This hike is particularly beautiful in the fall when the foliage displays vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. Don’t miss the two waterfalls: Upper Falls and Second Falls, perfect for photo opportunities and cooling off on a hot day.
The Graveyard Fields trailhead is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 418.8, with ample parking and restroom facilities.
John Rock Trail (Moderate)
This 5-mile loop trail is a local favorite, offering a taste of Pisgah’s diverse beauty. Hikers are treated to a mix of dense forests, mountain streams, and the stunning Cedar Rock Falls.
The trail culminates at John Rock, an impressive granite dome that provides sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the nearby Looking Glass Rock.
The hike begins at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Fish Hatchery, following the Cat Gap Loop Trail before branching off to the John Rock Trail.
Be prepared for a few creek crossings and some steep sections as you make your way to the summit.
Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (Moderate)
This 1.5-mile round trip hike leads to the historic Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower, offering panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The tower, built in 1941, is still used today for spotting wildfires. The hike itself is relatively short but has a steady incline that may be challenging for some.
The trail begins at the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower parking area off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 409.6. The views from the tower are well worth the effort and provide a unique perspective of the surrounding mountains.
Daniel Ridge Loop (Moderate)
The Daniel Ridge Loop is a 5-mile trail that offers a bit of everything: dense forests, cascading waterfalls, and the picturesque Davidson River.
This hike is great for those looking for a moderate challenge and a chance to enjoy the solitude of the forest. Highlights include the 150-foot Daniel Ridge Falls and the remnants of an old logging railroad.
The trailhead is located at the end of Forest Road 475C, with ample parking available. The trail can be hiked in either direction, but we recommend hiking counterclockwise to save the best views for last.
Beacon Heights Trail (Easy)
The Beacon Heights Trail is a short, 1-mile round trip hike with minimal elevation gain, making it perfect for families or those looking for a leisurely stroll.
The trail takes you through rhododendron-filled forests and rocky outcrops, culminating at the Beacon Heights summit.
The summit offers expansive views of Grandfather Mountain, Linville Gorge, and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
This hike is particularly stunning at sunrise or sunset, with the sky’s colors painting the landscape. The Beacon Heights trailhead is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 305.2.
Laurel River Trail (Easy)
The Laurel River Trail is a relatively flat, 7.2-mile round trip hike along the banks of the Laurel River.
This trail is perfect for those looking for a leisurely walk with plenty of opportunities to admire the scenic river and surrounding wilderness. Wildlife enthusiasts may catch a glimpse of otters, beavers, and various bird species along the way.
The trailhead is located near the community of Hot Springs, NC, with parking available at the intersection of NC-208 and NC-212. The trail ends at the confluence of the Laurel River and the French Broad River, a popular spot for picnics, swimming, and even fishing.
Going Camping? Read This: CAMPING AT DAVIDSON RIVER CAMPGROUND, BREVARD, NC
Guided Hikes from Asheville
If you’re new to hiking or unfamiliar with the Pisgah National Forest, guided hikes are a fantastic way to explore the area while benefiting from the expertise of knowledgeable local guides.
Asheville, the largest city near the forest, offers several tour companies that provide guided hikes through Pisgah National Forest and the surrounding areas.
These guided hikes not only ensure a safe and enjoyable experience but also provide valuable insights into the region’s flora, fauna, and history. We partner with Viator to bring you handpicked tours to explore this magical place!
Pisgah National Forest offers a diverse range of hiking experiences for adventurers of all skill levels. From challenging summit climbs to leisurely riverside strolls, there’s something for everyone in this breathtaking wilderness.
Our journey through these 9 trails, left us with memories of stunning vistas, unique geological features, and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of nature.
We hope our adventure inspires you to lace up your hiking boots and explore the wonders of Pisgah National Forest for yourself! We also include handpicked guided tours to make for an exception hiking adventure!