When it comes to hiking, few places offer more than Transylvania County and Brevard, NC. With over 400 miles of trails available for hiking, there is a seemingly endless supply of great hikes to keep even the fastest hikers busy exploring. While there is no way to compile a list of all of the best hikes in Brevard, we’ve hand-picked a few of our favorites below for you to enjoy.
Gorges State Park (Sapphire): With seemingly countless options for waterfalls to explore, Gorges is a great option to hike in and cool off in the river during hotsummer months. We recommend heading down to Rainbow Falls, a picturesque 60-foot waterfall, before taking the trail to one of many swimming holes along the way to Turtle Back Falls. Directions from Brevard: Take Hwy 64 past Rosman and Cashiers for around 20 miles to a left turn on U.S. 281. Follow for around 3 miles to a left into the park.
Art Loeb Trail (Candler to Brevard): With just over 30 miles of incredible hiking, the Art Loeb Trail is renowned as one of the most beautiful and difficult hikes of its length in the state. The trail is named for Art Loeb, an avid hiker and activist from the Carolina Mountain Club who had a fond appreciation for the Appalachian Mountains and especially the Black Balsam Range. The challenging trail takes on the rugged peaks and ridges in the rugged mountains between Brevard and Candler as it crosses over the Blue Ridge Parkway and a series of 6,000+ foot peaks while offering a bounty of astounding long-range views. Directions from Brevard: Hire a shuttle from Pura Vida Adventures in Brevard to make the setup easier. We like starting at the Boone Scout Camp near Candler. For complete directions, please see our app.
Coontree Loop (Pisgah National Forest): For a challenging 3.7 mile loop with nice elevation changes and varying micro environments, Coontree Loop is a great hike to check out. The trail begins across the road from the well known Coontree Picnic Area – where there is super fun rock to jump off into the river….for those interested in cooling off after gettin’ sweaty on the hike. A very short distance after crossing the road and starting on the trail, you get to choose whether to start the loop on the right or the left, and either one will give you an equally nice climb up the mountain. The top segment of the loop is an overlap with Bennett Gap trail that follows the ridge line, and offers some decent views during winter. There are creeks along this trail, making it a very dog-friendly hike.
Directions: From Downtown Brevard, take NC-280 East. Take a left onto US-276 West into the main entrance for Pisgah National Forest. Proceed on US-276 for about 5 miles to the Coontree Picnic Area parking lot on the left.
Looking Glass Rock Trail (Pisgah NF, Brevard): Looking Glass Rock’s stone face is one of the more recognizable landmarks from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The shear face is a popular climbing spot while the trail to the summit rewards hikers with stunning views. This moderately difficult hike climbs 1700 feet in 3 miles and is well marked with yellow blazes. As with all summit hikes, be careful when you reach the top. Directions from Brevard: At the intersection of Hwy 276 in Pisgah Forest, make a left turn into Pisgah National Forest and follow Hwy 276 for 5.3 miles and turn left at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education sign. Head a half mile to the parking area on your right.
Cove Creek (Pisgah National Forest): A good mix or road bed and trail – Cove Creek is suitable for the novice hiker, yet even the avid outdoor’s person will enjoy the territory. Plus, if 2.5 miles round trip it’s too lax of a hiking journey, then be sure to sit and slide down the rock in the frigid river to up the adventure ante. The first section of the hike truly is just a road bed, but it parallels the creek with some lovely cascades surrounded by vibrant greenery. Just before you hit the first field, which can be reserved as a group camp site, you’ll cut into the actual trail (called Caney Bottom) on the left. When the field is open, it’s a perfect frisbee-throwing location. After a very short distance on the trail, turn right to cross a small creek then at the intersection with Cove Creek Trail, then continue straight until you reach the Cove Creek Falls trail to the right. Follow it down to the waterfall. Head back the way you came, and then at that field where you meet back with the road bed, follow the road through the field and check out the miniature “Sliding Rock” of sorts that’s on the right before returning to the parking lot. Directions from Brevard: From the main intersection at the entrance of Pisgah Forest drive 5.2 miles north on 276 into the forest, and turn left on the paved Forest Road 475 towards the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Eduction. Drive 3.2 miles and park on the left just before the pavement ends at the 1 lane bridge. The gated road to begin the hike (and into the group camp area) is on the right.
When it comes to hiking, few places offer more than Transylvania County and Brevard, NC. With over 400 miles of trails available for hiking, there is a seemingly endless supply of great hikes to keep even the fastest hikers busy exploring. Views of nearby Looking Glass Rock, seen in this photo, are abundant on the hike to John Rock. Photo By: daveynin
John Rock (Pisgah National Forest): If you’re looking for killer views, then John Rock is the hike to take. There are a couple of trail approach options, either the long way (about 6 miles) or the shorter way (about 4 miles), but either way you’ll be rewarded with views of Looking Glass Rock, Pilot Mountain, and the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (aka the Fish Hatchery). The John Rock trail is accessed from the Cat Gap Loop Trail, and if you start on the right side of the loop, you’ll get the long approach following Cat Gap to a left on John Rock Trail. Once you hit the rock, then continue on the John Rock Trail to a left on Cat Gap to descend to the parking lot. If you’re feeling a little lazy, have less experienced hikers, or whiny kids, then take the left side of Cat Gap from the parking lot to a right on John Rock and make it an out-and-back rather than a loop. Directions from Brevard: In Pisgah Forest, NC, from the main entrance to Pisgah National Forest, follow Highway 276 into the forest for about 5.5 miles. Take a left onto Forest Service Road 475 and follow for less than a mile into the parking lot for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education on the left.
Panthertown Valley (Lake Toxaway): Also known as the “Yosemite of the East”, Panthertown Valley is a rugged slice of approximately 6,300 acres that includes the headwaters of the Tuckasegee River, the East Fork of the Little Tennessee River, and numerous creeks and waterfalls. With an awesome swimming hole and the naturally accessible trail that snakes behind the waterfall, Schoolhouse Falls is always a favorite. The water is definitely frigid year round, but the rock beach typically gets great sun. The budding geologist could play for hours in the rocks, while the kids (grown or young) will enjoy skipping the stones. Enter from the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead for the shorter hike in at less than a mile, or for a little longer excursion, park at the Salt Rock Gap Trailhead to make it closer to 2 miles one way. Be sure to bring a map, so as not to get lost in the matrix of trails. Directions from Brevard: To get to the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead (GPS 35.157843, -82.998909), take US 64 West out of downtown Brevard towards Lake Toxaway. Take a right on NC 281 and follow it for .8 miles to Cold Mountain Road on the left. Follow for 5.8 miles to where it makes a sharp left and turns to gravel – then follow to the trailhead. To get to the Salt Rock Gap Trailhead (35.16627, -83.03602), continue on US 64 West past NC 281. Take a right on Cedar Creek Road and follow for 2.3 miles to Breedlove Road on the right. Follow Breedlove Road for 3.5 miles to the parking lot.
Turkey Pen to S. Mills River Loop (Turkey Pen Gap): If you’re really up for a challenging loop, then this hike won’t disappoint – and it’s certainly not for the novice hiker. The initial climb out of the parking lot on Turkey Pen Trail heads straight up Sharpy Mountain for approximately 2 to 2.5 miles….again: Straight. Up. After descending down the back side of Sharpy, take a right onto Wagon Gap Road trail. This is often overgrown, muddy, and seldom used – but it winds down towards the river through dog hobble and pine forests. Take a right onto S. Mills River Trail, and follow it back to the parking lot to complete the loop. After the climb up Sharpy, S. Mills River Trail is a welcome flat and easy road bed that parallels the river before taking a right to head uphill to the parking area. There is plenty of water along the way, and the river to play in, so this is a great hike for dogs with decent endurance. Definitely take a map and know how to read your trail blazes for this one, cause Turkey Pen is an area known for confusing hikers. Directions from Brevard: From downtown, take NC-280 East towards Asheville. After passing the intersection for the main entrance to Pisgah National Forest, continue on 280 for approximately 5.8 miles to a left onto Turkey Pen Road. The road is gravel, and is often quite rutted, so super low clearance vehicles might have trouble depending on the current road condition. Follow the gravel for about 1.2 miles to the parking lot at the end. The trail starts up the steps to the left of the parking lot.
Vineyard Gap (Turkey Pen): If you enjoy tough, steep climbs and seldom-used trails, then check out Vineyard Gap at the Turkey Pen access to Pisgah. At just over 4.5 miles round trip, this is an out-and-back hike to a quiet section of the South Fork of Mills River. At the top of Forge Mountain, there are some pretty views when the leaves are off the trees. The best part of the hike is that there are great spots along the river bank to kick back and enjoy the babbling of the water and the sounds of nature. With the water at the destination, bring your furry dog friends that enjoy a swim in the river – but be mindful of horses in the parking lot, as there are other trails from this access that are frequented by those on horseback. Direction from Brevard: Take NC-280 East towards Asheville. After passing the intersection for the main entrance to Pisgah National Forest, continue on 280 for approximately 5.8 miles to a left onto Turkey Pen Road. The road is gravel, and is often quite rutted, so super low clearance vehicles might have trouble depending on the current road condition. Follow the gravel for about 1.2 miles to the parking lot at the end. The trail starts up the steps to the right of the parking lot.