Asheville, North Carolina is a destination for wandering backpackers, barefoot hipsters, and art lovers. Trust us, Asheville and the Biltmore aren’t the only attractions in the area. You’ll quickly see on a map that Asheville is tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains and two National Forests; Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest.
We were “glamping” in an Airbnb near Pisgah National Forest, in the small town of Candler, 20 minutes from downtown Asheville. Our campsite was fully equipped with an outdoor shower, grill, firepit, and electricity. A bamboo forest lies a short walk from the tent, a small path in the forest offers rushing river views. This place was only $54.00 a night, and the hosts (living next door) gave us complete privacy. One night I had a nightmare and woke up screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one came to check to see if I was being murdered. That’s privacy!
We headed out to Pisgah around 9:00am. I was really eager to get into the woods so when Dan asked to stop for gas, I urged him to keep on going. With all the mountain driving it quickly became apparent that not filling up was a bad idea. Dan instantly got nervous and gave me a little smack down for not letting him get gas, but fear not! I own a Chevy Volt, electric hybrid, luckily this car has a mountain feature that allows the car to retain electric miles when going down major inclines. The forest and earth thanks us, for not being gas guzzlers.
Our first stop for some hiking was a short .9 mile, easy trail called Skinny Dip Falls. Since we love skinny dipping anyways we figured this would be a good place to start. The short trail ends at a gorgeous swimming hole with stout, scenic falls. We recommend hitting this trail early on before it heats up and gets to crowded. If you get there and the initial pool is too crowded, continuing hiking up the falls for seclusion.
We headed to Sliding Rock next. We usually aren’t big on heavily trafficked tourist areas, but we were in the area, so why not? Sliding Rock is exactly what it sounds like, this natural water slide has 11,000 gallons rushing of water down it per minute! Parking near the trail head is nearly impossible, cars are lined up and down the road, so be prepared to walk a bit.
There is a $3.00 entrance fee (cash or credit) to the slide. A line awaited us with people of all ages waiting to slide down 60 foot boulder in icy water (50-60 degrees). The line moves quickly, so be patient. There are plenty of boulders and even a natural pool to lounge and wait.
After about a 15 minute wait we arrived to the top of the water slide. Even though the boulder is a smooth surface, it still can be a little intimidating. I planned my path to avoid my junk hitting an uneven surface. This area is regulated by lifeguards, so you have to wait for their go ahead before sliding. Once I was clear I started to slide. It was a quick, unique experience, there are a ton of lookout points so you definitely will have an audience. Everyone saw my wedgie.
Tip: Sliding Rock closes for high water or lightning. Check their Twitter feed for updates on closures. Another swimming hole, Looking Glass Waterfall is a few miles down the road from the slide. This is also a highly trafficked area. The falls are beautiful but the swimming area is busy.
Our final and most scenic stop was tubing in Deep Creek which actually flows out of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and into the Tuckasegee River, which borders Pisgah National Forest. There are plenty of places to rent tubes along the side of the road on the way to Deep Creek, we chose Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground.
For two tubes it costs us $12.00 this included them tying it on to the top of our car. They gave us directions to the trail head, and we were off. It’s a short drive to the parking area of the trail head, and about another 10 minute hike to the entry point of the river. There are two entry points depending on how long you want to tube for. Dan and I kept ramming each other with the tubes on the trail trying to knock the other over. Love.
When we arrived at the entry point we jumped in and let the water take us away. The river was the perfect temperature. The water paired along with the sun coming in through the trees made for a relaxing trip. There were a couple white water areas, but nothing too rough.
It took about 35 minutes before we landed at the exit area. You can keep going up and down as many times as you want, but it was time for us to head back. We returned our tubes and went behind the rental building to feed the baby goats to close out our evening.
There is definitely a lot to do in Pisgah, however, you want to use your time wisely and plan accordingly as the forest spans over 500,000 acres. With this type of expanse it’s important to outline your hikes and routes beforehand. Your accommodation and trip duration will help you judge this as well. However, if you are planning a day trip this itinerary is a great starting point!