Special Places

The National Forests in North Carolina includes national forest lands from the Southern Appalachian mountains to the marshy coast.  Recreation opportunities abound with the richness of the diversity of the land and its history.

Directions to Frequently Requested Places near the Asheville Supervisor's Office.

Cradle of Forestry

Two people use a crosscut saw while another person sits on the log to keep it steady

The Cradle of Forestry in America, nestled in Pink Beds Valley, is the birthplace of science-based forest management. Explore the past, present, and future of environmental sustainability and stewardship through paved interpretive trails, interactive exhibits, film, music, drama, guided tours, nature programs, craft demonstrations, and special events. A sustainably designed Forest Discovery Center with gift shop and café welcomes visitors to historical structures and a relaxing walk through the woods.

Wilderness Areas

The Wilderness Act of 1964 designated portions of federally owned land as Wilderness. By law, these lands are affected primarily by the forces of nature, where natural biological and physical processes are allowed to proceed with little to no human intervention. The National Forests in North Carolina manages over 102,000 acres of Wilderness across all four national forests. 

No motorized equipment or wheeled vehicles are allowed in Wilderness areas with the exception of wheelchairs. Visiting a Wilderness requires a high degree of self-reliance, as trails are minimally maintained with a limited number of signs, trail blazes, and footbridges. Group sizes are limited to 10.

For more information about Wilderness Areas in North Carolina, CLICK HERE

Scenic Areas

Wild and Scenic Rivers:

Scenic Byways:

This scenic 79-mile highway loops through the Pisgah Ranger District and nearby countryside. The route is rich in mountain beauty and forest history. 

View some of the best mountain scenery in the world from this 43-mile National Scenic Byway through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests. The Cherohala Skyway connects Tellico Plains in southeast Tennessee to Robbinsville, NC. 


The Mountain Waters Scenic Byway is a 61.3-mile drive that winds through the Nantahala National Forest's two river gorges, hardwood forest and countryside. Attractions you can expect to find along the route include: Cullasaja Gorge, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls (pictured here), Cliffside Lake, Van Hook Glade, Wayah Creek, Rufus Morgan Trail, Wayah Bald, Nantahala Lake and the Nantahala River.

Other Special Places

Forest Waterfalls

Image Map for waterfalls tour
Click on a star on the map to view each waterfall area, or follow the links located in the right hand column.

Waterfall Warning

Although beautiful to see, waterfalls are very dangerous. Every year people fall TO THEIR DEATH after a slip on wet rocks above and around the falls. Never climb around waterfalls or play in the water above a waterfall. Keep pets on leashes. Stay on the established trails and enjoy the view from the overlooks.

Highlighted Areas

Pisgah Ranger Station/Visitor Center

Pisgah Ranger Station offers a variety of experiences including interpretative trails, day hikes, information on the Pisgah National Forest, and interpretative visitor center. The visitor center is operated by FIND Outdoors. 

PISGAH RD 8/28/2021
FOREST CLOSURE ORDER NO. 08-11-07-21-118
for noted locations:
Setzer Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Education Center
Wildlife Education Center Visitor Parking Lot and the first 0.1 miles of FSR475C; Horse Cove
Sliding Rock Recreation Area
Wolf Ford Horse Camp
Cove Creek Group Camps(Upper&Lower)
Looking Glass Falls will apply only to the stairs to the lower
observation deck and the pool below the falls.
Sycamore Flats Recreation Area
North end of the Art Loeb Trailhead and Little East Fork Trailhead
475 – Davidson River Road (from Cove Creek to Gloucester Gap)
475 – Davidson River Road (from Balsam Grove to Gloucester Gap)
140 – Courthouse Creek Road
229 – Pilot Mountain Road

Maps and Official Closure Order Available at this Link

Sliding Rock Recreation Area

Sliding Rock is a 60 foot natural water slide that ends in a 8 foot deep pool of water, with 2 observation platforms, now operated by Adventure Pisgah. The area is open 365 days a year but is only staffed with lifeguards and open restrooms from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, 7 days per week from 9 am to 8 pm.  After Labor Day weekend, the area is staffed only on weekends until October 31, weather and water levels permitting. When not staffed, there are no lifeguards and restrooms are closed.

This is a heavily-used recreation area; come early and try to avoid visiting during the peak hours of noon-4 pm. Periodically, the parking area fills up and will be closed until spaces become available. Plan to visit other nearby areas such as Looking Glass Falls or the Cradle of Forestry and come back to Sliding Rock later. 

Sliding Rock may close due to heavy rainfall and high water levels. Picnicking and alcohol are prohibited at Sliding Rock. Picnic at nearby Pink Beds, four miles away. Or, find riverside tables along US 276. 

Visitors can check the Adventure Pisgah website and Instagram (@slidingrocknc) for information and area status updates.

9:00am-8:00pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day and then weekends through October 31; lifeguards on duty and restrooms open when fee is charged.

Flanners Beach/Neuse River Campground

Located under tall pines and hardwoods, each of the 40 campsites is equipped with a picnic table, fire ring and lantern poles. Two of these sites only allow double occupancy. Electrical hookups are available at 24 sites. The campground offers showers, restrooms, drinking water and a trailer dump station for registered campers’ use.

Users can stretch their legs on an accessible one-mile trail that winds through the mixed pine-hardwood forest near both the campground and picnic area. More than five additional miles are also available to bikers and hikers, but no motorized vehicles or horses are allowed.

This area is subject to closure in advance of hurricanes.  Reservations will be automatically cancelled and refunded in the event of a closure due to hurricanes.  Hurricane season is typically June to mid-November.

For more information, read the Neuse River Recreation Opportunity Guide.

You can also view these maps for the area: Neuse River Campground, Neuse River Recreation Area Overview, and Neuse River Recreation Area ROG.

Cradle of Forestry In America Heritage Site

Nestled below the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Pisgah National Forest is the birthplace of forestry in America - the Cradle of Forestry.

The Cradle abounds with ways to have fun while learning about the forest, traditional Blue Ridge culture, and forest management.

Paved trails - perfect for strollers and wheelchairs - put the forest at your fingertips.

Check out the brochure.

Badin Lake Recreation Area

Badin Lake Recreation Area offers swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking trails, equestrian trails, four-wheel drive trails, mountain biking trails & camping opportunities. Please pick up your trash! Trash cans are at all recreation sites.

Camping in Badin Lake Recreation Area

There are 4 developed campgrounds for tents, camping trailers, & RVs with flush toilets and showers & 1 tent only campground within the Badin Lake Recreation Area. There are 2 campgrounds with electricity, flush toilets, showers & a dump station. Arrowhead Campground has 48 sites with electrical hookups at sites 12-45. These sites have 50 amp, 30 amp & 110 volt outlets. Sites 1-11 & 46-50 do not have power.  Canebrake Horse Camp has 28 sites available to the public. All sites have electrical hookups with 50 amp, 30 amp & 110 volt outlets. This campground has amenities for horse use but is not exclusive to horseback riders. Some of these horse amenities are a horse washing station, hitching posts, tack tables & direct access to the trails. 

Badin Lake Campground offers 34 sites for tent, camping trailer or RV camping. There are several campsites on the lakeshore of Badin Lake which can be accessed via boat, canoe, or kayak.  This campground offers flush toilets, showers & drinking water hydrants. There is no electricity and no dump station at this campground. Badin Lake Group Camp offers 3 sites for up to 50 people each. There are flush toilets, vault toilets, showers & 3 drinking water hydrants. There are no electrical hookups and there is no dump station.  This campground is available by reservation only.

To make reservations for any of the above listed campgrounds please call Recreation.Gov at 877-444-6777; TDD: 877-833-6777; International: 518-885-3639; or go to www.recreation.gov.

The last campground in the Badin Lake Recreation Area is called Uwharrie Hunt Camp. This campground is rustic. It has 8 tent only campsites that can be accessed by a very short walk from the parking lot.  There are 2 vault toilets & drinking water hydrants.  Each site has a tent pad, picnic table, fire ring, grill, & lantern post. 

Recreating in the Badin Lake Recreation Area

The Badin Lake Recreation Area offers many recreational opportunities. There are 17 miles of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) or motorized trails available for dirt bikes, ATVs, and full-sized 4-WD vehicles with the purchase of a trail pass.  Primitive camping or dispersed camping can be done along the trails & at the Art Lilley Campground that is located in the Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex. 

Additionally, there are approximately 40 miles of non-motorized trails available for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. These trails range from easy to difficult as they traverse beautifully wooded areas, rocky outcrops, the Uwharrie River & many of its tributaries.   

The Cove Boat Launch is located on Cove Road near Arrowhead Campground & offers access to Badin Lake for trailered boats. There is a vault toilet. There are 2 day use areas for picnicking & fishing. The King's Mt. Point Day Use Area offers 34 picnic sites, a picnic pavilion, 4 accessible fishing piers and 4 vault toilets & 2 flush toilets. Holt's Picnic Area is more rustic with a vault toilet, fishing from the shore, grills & picnic tables available.

Black Swamp OHV Trailhead

This trail offers eight off-highway-vehicle trail miles for riders. The trail is designated for all-terrain vehicles and trail bikes.  ATVs are defined as having seat to be straddled by the operator and a handlebar for steering, with three, four, or six wheels and under 60 inches in width.

Riding off-highway vehicles at Black Swamp OHV Trail on the Croatan National Forest requires a pass sold only on Recreation.gov.

At the website, search on Black Swamp OHV and select the 1-day pass for $5 or the annual pass for $30.

You don’t need to print a copy of the day pass. You can store the pass on your smart phone or other device and show it to confirm your purchase. If you buy an annual pass, you can print the pass to display on your tow vehicle.

  • Each OHV needs a pass.
  • You must enter the names for each rider and a license plate for each tow vehicle that will be at the trailhead. A state driver’s license must be available to show during a law enforcement compliance check.
  • Passes can be downloaded to each rider’s phone or printed at home and carried on the trail. You can email and text passes to each rider if one person is making purchases for multiple riders.