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Skip the Crowds at the World’s Most Popular National Park by Visiting Pisgah National Forest Instead

In many ways, Great Smoky Mountain National is the quintessential park. It’s full of thick forests, babbling rivers, and bears. Unlike many parks in the West, you can usually still have a campfire. The combination of the park’s beauty and proximity to the East Coast brings in more than 12 million visitors a year. That’s easily double the crowds at the next most popular park, the Grand Canyon. However, so many guests can mean crowded overlooks and limited campsites. So, the next time you head to the area, maybe skip the crowds and head to the Pisgah National Forest.

Don’t get us wrong, Great Smoky Mountains is a must on any outdoor lover’s to-do list. We think that sometimes, finding an alternative is a great way to experience a region in a more secluded way.

So, no matter where you go in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find a ton of wildlife and beautiful views. And if you choose to visit Pisgah National Forest, you’ve made a great choice.

Endless Waterfalls

Pisgah National Forest is known as the land of waterfalls. There are more than 250 waterfalls in the forest. Many of them are near the gateway city of Brevard, which is about 45 minutes south of Asheville, North Carolina. Waterfalls like Looking Glass Falls are located right off the road that cuts through the forest and is a great picture opportunity. Others, like Log Hollow Falls, require a short hike.

waterfalls in pisgah

Looking Glass Rock

In the same area is Looking Glass Rock, a giant rock wall and the bald side of a mountain famous in the rock climbing community. The spot is one of the most popular spots for climbers, but you can also hike up the rock for a challenging day hike with great views of the area.

rock climbing in Pisgah
(Source: NPS)

Miles of Mountain Biking Singletrack

Pisgah is an outdoor sports paradise. Besides rock climbing, you’ll also find miles of single-track for mountain biking. Plenty of trails carve through the steep hills with rolling trails to keep bikers entertained for days. The U.S. Forest Service says there are more than 300 miles of bike trails.

Flyfishing in Pisgah National Forest

Western North Carolina is also the only spot in the state for trout fishing. The area is popular for flyfishing, with multiple rivers that flow through the area and east towards the ocean. Visitors who plan to fish need to have a valid North Carolina fishing license.

Pisgah National Forest Campgrounds 

One thing that’s nice about national forests compared to national parks is the abundance of camping opportunities. While many national parks will see their campgrounds fill up, national forests have many first-come, first-serve camping spots. While some campgrounds in the forest, like Davidson River Campground, can be booked online, others require you to head deeper into the forest to find your own spot.

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Taking the Blue Ridge Parkway is one way to head east out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park Service oversees the National Roadway, and is one of the country’s most beautiful drives. The roadway goes through the Pisgah National Forest and has dozens of overlooks and roadside stops to take in the views. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also an easy way to access multiple trails for all experience levels.

Pisgah and Blue Ridge Parkway

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Like the Blue Ridge Parkway, heading east of the Great Smoky Mountains is the Appalachian Trail. The famous hike goes through some of the most popular sections here, including Max Patch and near the Lineville Gorge Area. Thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail and more casual day hikers can easily access these areas for some of the best spots the AT has to offer.

Hiking the AT in NC

Have you visited the Pisgah National Forest before?

fishing
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