There are four National Forests in North Carolina including 1.25 million acres of public lands from the mountains to the sea:
Nantahala National Forest
This forest lies in the mountains and valleys of southwestern North Carolina. Elevations in the Nantahala National Forest range from 5,800 feet at Lone Bald in Jackson County to 1,200 feet in Cherokee County along Hiwassee River below Appalachian Lake Dam. “Nantahala” is a Cherokee word meaning “land of the noon day sun,” a fitting name for the Nantahala Gorge, where the sun only reaches to the valley floor at midday. With over a half million acres, the Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina. The national forest is divided into three ranger districts: Cheoah, Nantahala and Tusquitee.
Pisgah National Forest
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. This national forest is home of the first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911 which led to the creation of the national forests in the eastern United States. It is also home of the first school of forestry in the United States, now preserved at the Cradle of Forestry in America historic site, and boasts two of the first designated wilderness areas in the east. The Pisgah, Grandfather and Appalachian Ranger Districts are scattered along the eastern edge of the mountains of western North Carolina and offer visitors a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation and enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains.
Uwharrie National Forest
The Uwharrie National Forest was first purchased by the federal government in 1931 during the Great Depression. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed these federal lands in Montgomery, Randolph and Davidson Counties the Uwharrie National Forest. It is one of the most recently formed in the National Forest System. Though small, at only 50,645 acres, the Uwharrie provides a variety of recreation opportunities and natural resources, including clean rivers and streams, diverse vegetation for scenery, wildlife habitat and wood products. Click here for the history of the Uwharrie National Forest.
Croatan National Forest
Discover a matrix of longleaf pine forests, evergreen-shrub bogs and wetlands on the Croatan National Forest’s 160,000 acres on North Carolina’s coast. Bordered on three sides by tidal rivers and the Bogue Sound, the forest is defined by water. All this water provides a variety of recreation and diversity of wildlife. Canoeing and fishing are popular on blackwater creeks and saltwater marshes.
Forest Facts and Figures prior to 2006