Nantahala National Forest
Legend has it that sunlight can only reach the floors of the rich cove forests or touch the ribbons of water that course through the gorges of the wild and scenic Nantahala Forest at noon when the sun is directly overhead. Created in 1920, Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina, covering just over half-a-million acres.
The Nantahala National Forest is renowned for whitewater, mountain biking and camping and hiking. The Appalachian Trail, Bartram’s Trail and the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail all meander through the forest. Of course with more than 600 miles of trails there are plenty of dayhikes and short strolls.
There are more than 27,000 acres of designated wilderness in the Nantahala. These include Ellicott Rock, Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock and the Southern Nantahala Wilderness. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness Area is one of the most beautiful old growth forests in the east. It was set aside in 1936 in order of its namesake poet and author of “Trees” who was killed in action in France during World War I.
Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah National Forest began as a part of George Vanderbilt’s private estate. The area west of Vanderbilt’s Asheville Biltmore Estate was sold to the federal government after his death in 1914. These acres became the first tracts of the now half-million-acre Pisgah National Forest.
Pisgah is home to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, Max Patch, the Harmon Den Bear Preserve, the Cradle of Forestry and Sliding Rock.
Vanderbilt’s forests were the birthplace of modern forestry in this country. A glimpse of that birth is available at the forest’s 6,500-acre National Historic Site at The Cradle of Forestry. Let the Cradle rock you back to the turn of the 20th century. Stroll along the mile-long Biltmore Campus Trail and talk to the town blacksmith or other crafters while they ply their trades. Visit the “campus” of the first forestry school in America begun in 1898 by Carl Schenk at the behest of Vanderbilt and take a peek inside the Biltmore Forest School.