When you’re a family out looking for adventure, Pisgah National Forest is a win. We visited Pisgah in early July during our two week East coast road trip. It was brought to our attention in a google search for “top destinations.” We would have to agree that this park is a “don’t miss” if you are anywhere near the area. We were driving from Atlanta, Georgia to Raleigh, North Carolina and we made sure to pass through Asheville for a stop at Pisgah. We were not disappointed. In fact, we’d love to visit again and explore more!
Website — “The Pisgah National Forest is a land of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls, and heavily forested slopes. Comprised of over 500,000 acres, the Pisgah is primarily a hardwood forest with whitewater rivers, waterfalls and hundreds of miles of trails.”
- Located in the Appalachian Mountains of Western NC
- 9 Waterfalls
- Abundant recreation opportunities
Ranger Station/Visitor Center
The Pisgah Ranger Station and Visitor Center is worth a stop. They offer public restrooms, water fountains, an educational area, gift shop and a Ranger hosted park information center. We could not resist a nice sticker as a travel badge for our car and some Smokey Bear paraphernalia. We were also able to get our Passport to National Parks stamped along with some great tips on our visit.
Pisgah National Forest is the home of the first school of forestry in the US, Biltmore Forest School, which operated in the late 19th, early 20th century and played a big role in the creation of the US Forest Service. It’s located in the southern part of the forest. We weren’t able to visit due to time constrains, but we are eager to spend a full day here on our next trip! (I became a Smokey Bear Junior Forest Ranger when I was 8 years old! He holds a special place in my heart. I still have my badge!!)
- Pisgah contains two of the first designated wilderness areas in the East.
- Among the first tracts of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911 which led to the creation of the national forests in the Eastern US
- The US Forest Service introduced Smokey Bear here
- They host an abundance of different programs and educational opportunities!
This is the attraction that drew us to Pisgah! A giant rock water slide! It was everything we had hoped for. This 60 foot natural water slide dumps you into an 8 foot deep pool of water that is breath-takingly cold. There are two observation platforms for watching or taking great pics of your loved ones going down. This area is open 365 days of the year, but the lifeguards and restrooms only operate from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. After Labor Day they intermittently staff this area through mid October, so call ahead if your visit falls on one of these days.
Tips for your visit:
- Very popular recreation area; come early and try to avoid visiting during the peak hours of noon-4 pm.
- The parking area can fill up and will close until spaces become available again. You can opt to visit other nearby areas (Looking Glass Falls or the Cradle of Forestry) and come back to Sliding Rock later. We were turned away from the lot, drove up the road a bit to turn around, and when we passed by the second time the lot opened up. We also saw people walking from parking areas further down the road.
- Sliding Rock may close due to heavy rainfall and high water levels. Call ahead to check. 828-885-ROCK
- Picnicking and alcohol are prohibited at Sliding Rock. You can picnic at nearby Pink Beds, four miles away, or find riverside tables along US 276.
- Personal floatation devices are available for rent in the parking area for your convenience. They are not required. After watching several families, I would suggest small children wear one for the slide into the pool at the bottom. The cold water seemed to really take some kids by surprise.
- They charge a daily fee of $3 per person (sliding or not) to enter the area. It is worth it. You can stay as long as you like and slide down the rock as many times as you like. We encountered a long line, but it moves really fast. From the bottom of the rock to your turn to slide down it was never longer than ten minutes.
There are nine waterfalls at Pisgah National Park! Looking Glass Falls is one of the most convenient and easily accessible so it’s easy to check out regardless of time and energy. There are great photo spots along the road or you can walk down a flight of stairs to get closer. If you’re more adventurous, you can swim under the falls, wade in the creek, or just explore along the rocks. We really enjoyed the refreshing water and spent a good amount of time here. This area is also popular for hiking and climbing. There is an easy trail to the falls and a more difficult trail to the top of the falls to Looking Glass Rock (you an also climb the rock).
Tips for your visit:
- Water shoes or old sneakers would be good here for the rocky creek bottom. We went barefooted and did fine, but we were very cautious.
- There’s no fee for this area
- Parking is along the highway. On a busy day you may have to walk up to a half mile, but there is a healthy shoulder and wide sidewalk to make it safe and easy for everyone in the family.
Pisgah has hundreds of miles of trails, excellent destinations throughout the park, and some of the highest mountains in the Eastern US. This is a park worthy of a lengthy stay!
- Hiking- easy to difficult trails leading to some terrific sites, check out AllTrails.com
- Road biking
- Mountain biking- easy to difficult trails, check out Singletracks.com
- Rock climbing- some of the highest summits on the East coast, check out Pilotcove.com
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥
Cost– National Parks are typically inexpensive adventures. Your cost factor for this one is the travel and stay based on where you are in relation to the park. This park does offer camping of many varieties to help keep your trip affordable.
Parking & Transportation– There is plenty of parking in this park, but you might have to walk a little bit to reach specific sites on busy days. It is best if you have your own transportation. You can find shuttles for certain areas but they are very expensive ($80-125 for 2 people). You can take a train and bus combo from a major city like Raleigh, but this costs $140-250 per person. A car can get you to the same place for about $40 and that includes everyone you can fit in the car. If you’re traveling from further away (Raleigh is about 277 miles from Pisgah), you will have to calculate the cost. We used Pisgah as a midpoint between road trip destinations.
Location– This park is magnificent due to its location in the Appalachian Mountains including the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Balsam Mountains.
Day Trip or Overnight– You could easily make this an overnight trip by taking advantage of their camping accommodations. We were only able to visit for a day and we barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer. Our next visit will be overnight!
Experience– Terrific, wholesome experience for everyone. Getting outdoors, appreciating nature, exercising, and interacting with your family or group is what this experience is all about. The natural wonders of this park will give you a new respect for nature and National Parks.
Combination– This park is a combination of experiences and activities all on its own. Even if you only hit a couple of highlights like we did, it will take the bulk of the day to do them.