Located in the North Carolina mountains, Pisgah National Forest is a delightful destination. The forest features mountains, waterfalls, scenic drives, hiking trails, wildlife, and so much more for visitors to explore.
Because Pisgah National Forest has so much to see and do, many find that one day just isn’t enough! And what better way to fully immerse yourself in the scenic landscape than camping?
If you’re looking for tips for the perfect camping trip, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the complete guide to Pisgah National Forest camping!
What to Expect When Camping at Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is vast, spanning over 500,000 acres across North Carolina. Its landscape is comprised of hardwood forests, mountains, trails, cascading waterfalls, and whitewater rivers, just to name a few features.
The forest is divided into three districts: the Appalachian Ranger District, the Grandfather Ranger District, and the Pisgah Ranger District. Each has unique characteristics, a plethora of things to do, and many reasons to visit!
Camping at Pisgah National Forest also presents a unique opportunity to see wildlife, including plenty of fish, beavers, and falcons. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’re also likely to come across wildflowers, like daffodils, violets, and more!
Pisgah National Forest Campgrounds
If you’re planning to camp at Pisgah National Forest, you’ll find that there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from. Though there are many great options not listed here, here are a few we recommend.
Appalachian Ranger District
- Black Mountain Campground – Black Mountain Campground is adjacent to Mount Mitchell, a popular place for hiking. It has 37 primitive campsites, three with electric hookups, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and grills.
- Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area – Named for the hemlock and hardwood trees that shade the campsites, Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area is a great place to camp in Pisgah National Forest if you enjoy fishing, tubing, and hiking. The campground has 35 primitive campsites as well as access to bathrooms, showers, and more.
- Rocky Bluff Campground – Located alongside the trout-filled Spring Creek, Rocky Bluff Campground is an ideal spot for hiking and fishing. It has 15 sites for RV or tent camping, with amenities like bathrooms and picnic tables. Reservations are required.
Grandfather Ranger District
- Curtis Creek Campground – Next to a flowing creek, Curtis Creek Campground has a serene feel. Its campsites are suitable for both tents and RVs, and they provide access to bathrooms, picnic tables, and more.
- Mortimer Campground – Visiting this campground means being surrounded by forest, streams, and a river. This Pisgah National Forest campground has 17 sites for RV or tent camping, with bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and other amenities. Reservations are required.
Pisgah Ranger District
- Lake Powhatan Campground – Located on the shore of a lake, Lake Powhatan Campground is an excellent option for those who want to enjoy water-based activities like fishing, swimming paddle boating, and more. It has sites for both tent and RV camping, bathrooms and showers, and picnic tables.
- North Mills River Campground – North Mills River Campground sits outside of Asheville, North Carolina, and features shady campgrounds and a running river. It’s a great place to stay overnight if you plan to spend the days fishing, hiking, mountain biking, or exploring the arboretum. Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, picnic tables, and more.
5 Fun Things to Do at Pisgah National Forest
With miles and miles of trails throughout the forest, hiking is a must-do for Pisgah National Forest camping trips. Hikes span a range of distances and difficulty levels, and depending on which you choose, you may come across breathtaking waterfalls, wildflowers, mountain peaks, lookout points, and more!
There are so many great hiking trails to choose from, and given all that Pisgah National Forest has to offer, it’s hard to go wrong. But to get you started, here are a few hikes we recommend.
- Graveyard Fields Trail – Graveyard Fields is a moderate, three-mile hike that takes you through fields of wildflowers and berries, culminating in a stop at a picturesque waterfall. Sometimes, the trail is muddy, and there are a few easy water crossings, so make sure to wear appropriate shoes!
- Mount Mitchell Trail – The Mount Mitchell area is a popular spot for backpacking and camping in Pisgah National Forest. Hiking the trail involves a challenging 12 miles, but if that doesn’t scare you, it’s completely worth it! Mount Mitchell Trail will take you to the highest mountain peak in the eastern United States.
- Looking Glass Rock Trail – Looking Glass Rock Trail is a moderate, six-mile out-and-back trail. It’s named after the enormous, reflective rock walls that hikers encounter. The hike also takes visitors to the mountain’s summit, where you’ll catch breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain.
- Max Patch – If you want to hike part of the iconic Appalachian Trail while camping in Pisgah National Forest, consider Max Patch! This moderate, one-and-a-half-mile hike takes you through grassy fields full of wildflowers. It’s a particularly great spot to enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
- Linville Fall Plunge Basin Trail – Linville Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Parkway for good reason! This almost two-mile hike takes you to the base of the falls, where you can watch the water cascade.
2. Visiting Waterfalls
As you can tell from the list of hiking trails in Pisgah National Forest, there are tons of beautiful waterfalls to visit throughout the forest! And while hiking is a great way to experience the falls, there are other ways to access them, too. Some are visible from the side of the road, and others can be accessed by easy walking paths.
Some of the best waterfalls in the area include Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock Falls, Linville Falls, Moore Cove Falls, Courthouse Falls, and Roaring Fork Falls, just to name a few.
If you like fishing, your Pisgah National Forest camping trip won’t be complete without exploring the great fishing opportunities in the area!
One great spot to fish is Davidson River. This river boasts year-round fishing areas, fly fishing, and trout fishing.
Many of the campgrounds listed above have good fishing, too. For example, the South Toe River area is near Black Mountain Campground and the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area, and it has designated spots for trout fishing. Curtis Creek Campground, Lake Powhatan Campground, and North Mills River Campground also offer fishing access.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a North Carolina fishing license. You should also make sure to know the rules and regulations at your fishing destination before you go.
The trails around Pisgah National Forest aren’t just for hiking; many are for mountain biking, too! And there’s a seemingly-endless number of options to choose from.
Several of the campgrounds in the area offer access to great biking trails. The Lake Powhatan Loop is a five-and-a-half-mile trail that’s popular for mountain biking, among other activities. So if you’re staying at the Lake Powhatan campground, it’s easy to get to.
Some of our favorite hiking trails, like the Graveyard Fields Trail, are also excellent options for mountain biking.
And for a flatter trail, consider the six-mile Pink Beds Trail near Brevard, North Carolina, or the seven-and-a-half-mile Flat Laurel Creek near Canton.
5. Rock Climbing
Last but certainly not least on the list of things to do on a Pisgah National Forest Camping trip is rock climbing.
Pisgah National Forest has rock climbing options for everyone, whether it’s your first time climbing or you’re a seasoned climber. One popular choice is Looking Glass Rock, an exposed granite rock. It offers multiple routes with varying levels of difficulty, making it a great option for climbers of all levels.
For advanced climbers, Laurel Knob offers a challenging climb. One of the tallest crags in the eastern United States, the open-face rock has several difficult, multi-pitch routes.
What to Pack for a Pisgah National Forest Camping Trip
Now that you’ve planned the basics of where to stay and what to do while camping at Pisgah National Forest, you’ll need to know what to pack.
As you’ve probably guessed, you’ll need to pack all of the camping basics, like a tent (with a rainfly), sleeping bags, and a flashlight. A first aid kit is always a good idea, too.
As far as what to wear, layers are always a good choice. Pisgah National Forest features many elevation changes that can impact the temperature. On some hikes, you may get warm even in the wintertime, so it’s best to be prepared!
For any additional items, think about what you’ll be doing. If you’re hiking, for example, hiking shoes are a good item to bring. If you’re planning to go fishing, bring your fishing gear!
For more details, visit our guide about What to Bring Camping.
Wrapping up Pisgah National Forest Camping
With the basics of your trip covered, you’re ready to go camping in Pisgah National Forest! Whether you camp in a tent or RV, and whether you plan to spend your days hiking, biking, fishing, or just relaxing, you’re sure to have a great time.
Are you interested in more camping guides and tips? Visit our camping page for camping gear reviews, recommendations about where to go camping, how-to guides, and more!