Mountain Biking the Davidson River Area
The Davidson River trailhead is perhaps the most popular area within the entire Pisgah National Forest, for mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, rock climbers, fishermen, naturalists, photographers, and tourists alike. This is the quintessential National Forest recreation area, with a wide range of attractions that will delight any type of visitor. Being so close to a good highway and to town, this area is perfect for someone who loves the outdoors but also likes being close to the amenities of the modern world. However, some of Pisgah's greatest backcountry and wilderness areas can be accessed from the area as well.
Mountain Biking along US 276 in the Davidson River Area:
The vast majority of people who venture into this section of the forest stick to a narrow corridor right along this major thoroughfare. As soon as one ventures off the major roads and into the woods, the hustle and bustle is soon left behind and solitude once again reigns. There are more than enough trails and gravel roads in this area to take up a day of riding, and you can most likely stay busy for several days exploring the mountains here.
Trails in the Davidson River area are generally similar to those found elsewhere in the Pisgah National Forest. They are rockier, steeper, and more challenging than those at Tsali. Many trails follow old road or railroad beds and have significant erosion problems. Others climb high mountain ridges and are true singletrack treads.
A general description of what can be found within the Davidson River Area follows. Points of interest are shown in red; trails are shown in bold. Numbers indicate distance in miles from the Pisgah National Forest entrance marker when driving US 276 from Brevard toward the Parkway.
Trails and Attractions along US 276
Starting in the town of Pisgah Forest, US highway 276 enters the Pisgah National Forest by a dramatic stone entrance marker. The Sycamore Flats Recreation Area (0.3) is the first site you encounter. A large riverside picnic area is located here. Next you will pass the Davidson River Campground (1.1), the largest in the Pisgah Ranger District. The North Slope and Sycamore Cove (0.9) trails (both Best Rides on this site) start here. You will then pass the Pisgah Ranger District Ranger Station and Visitor Center (1.4), which offers excellent maps of this area, a small museum/exhibit area, and information about the entire Pisgah National Forest. From the ranger station you can access the Thrift Cove and Grassy Road (both nice, easy to moderate trails) and Black Mountain (a long, difficult trail).
Continuing up US 276, you will pass several smaller picnic areas and roadside tables. FS 477 leads off to the right into the Avery Creek valley (2.1), where there are a multitude of longer, more difficult interconnecting trails including Bennet Gap, Buckwheat Knob, Buckhorn Gap, Avery Creek, and Black Mountain.
Further along US 276, the Davidson River and Looking Glass Creek fork apart, and the road splits as well, to either side of the ridge formed by Looking Glass Rock.
If you turn left here on paved Forest Service Road 475 (5.2), you will continue up the Davidson River. The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Fish Hatchery is next (6.6), and is a base for several great rides. You can access the Cat Gap Loop, Butter Gap, andLong Branch trails from here. The Picklesimer Fields Best Ride uses these trails. Continuing along FS 475, you will find the parking areas for the Cove Creek Group Camping Area and Caney Bottom trail. Further along you'll reach the Daniel Ridge trail and further still, Cemetery Loop and the other end of Long Branch. The road then climbs to Gloucester Gap, where it leaves the Davidson River area.
If you bear right on US 276 where it intersects 475, you will very quickly come to the beautiful Looking Glass Falls (5.6), one of the most scenic and most-photographed in the state. Further along is the parking area for Sliding Rock (7.7). This natural, 60-foot rock water slide ends in a deep, cold, clear pool and is an extremely popular spot for cooling off. The final point of interest to mountain bikers is the Pink Beds Picnic Area (11.4), where you can ride the north half of the Pink Beds Loop trail. Technically, the Mills River drains this valley instead of the Davidson. However, it is included in the Davidson River Area for this site since US 276 passes through it and the trailhead is so close to other trails in the Davidson River area.
Past the Pink Beds, US 276 climbs to the Blue Ridge Parkway 15.1 miles beyond the entrance gate.
Amenities & Lodging in the towns of Pisgah Forest and Brevard
The heart of Pisgah Forest is the intersection of NC Hwy. 280, US Hwy. 64 and US Hwy. 276. The Wal-Mart and Bi-Lo Shopping Center is located at this corner, as is the Hampton Inn hotel. You will also find restaurants (Pizza Hut and my favorite: Hawg Wild BBQ at this corner, El Chapala Mexican Restaurant across the highway) and fast food here (Taco Bell) & south along US 276/64 (Arby's, McDonalds & Wendy's). Located here as well are Backcountry Outdoors outfitters & bike shop and Sycamore Cycles, with all the gear you need for your trip into the Davidson River Area!
From this intersection, the Pisgah National Forest entrance gate is 100 yds. W. on US 276. Dupont State Forest via Crab Creek Rd. is 3.7 mi. E. on US 64. Asheville via I-26 is 16 mi. N. on US 280. The Holiday Inn Express hotel is 0.3 mi. S. on US 276/64. The town of Brevard is approx. 3 miles S. on US 276/64 and presents many other lodging, dining and shopping options.
This area is a great hub for explorations into the Pisgah National Forest of course, but also to Dupont State Forest, Nantahala National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond! For more information on the town of Brevard, visit http://www.brevardnc.com/.
Big Branch Cabins
Experience the best of a Blue Ridge Mountain getaway in beautiful Brevard, North Carolina! Enjoy our charming mountain cabins and our 12 private, wooded acres, bordered by thousands of acres of forestry land. You'll be just a short distance from Dupont State Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Gorges State Park, and Nantahala National Forest including the spectacular Whitewater Falls, highest in the Eastern US. You can hike the Big Branch trail to stream, or enjoy nature in the surrounding thousands of acres of public forest lands. Our two-bedroom cabins are decorated with unique antiques & include a fully functional kitchen, AC, TV/DVD, bed linens/towels, covered porches, outdoor grills, washer/dryer, and a picnic area.
Hampton Inn Brevard
Fall from your cloud nine bed to the trail when you stay with us at the Hampton Inn Brevard. We are conveniently located at the gateway to the Pisgah National forest where you can actually ride straight from your room to the trail. The hotel is bike friendly and host to numerous cycling groups, races and training programs throughout the year. We also offer a large meeting room for events and can also assist with your group tours.
Red House Inn English Bed and Breakfast
The newly renovated Red House Inn provides comfortable bed and breakfast accommodation in downtown Brevard, NC. The Inn is a short walk from many shopping and dining opportunities and within easy driving distance to Brevard Music Center, Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State forest. It is ideally situated for exploring the North Carolina mountains, visiting waterfalls, hiking, mountain biking and fishing. The Red House Inn is owned and operated by a couple who hike and bike frequently with their daughter and dog and will help you plan your outdoor experience in WNC!
Camping in the Davidson River Area
Davidson River Campground
This campground is located about a mile past the main entrance to the National Forest when coming from Brevard, on the left. It is open year-round. There are 163 sites, some of which are closed during the winter months. Fees for sites range from $20 - $40 per night. Flush toilets, hot showers, and amphitheater, and river swimming and tubing are all available here. This campground is the closest to the most trails: the seasonal North Slope trail starts right out of the campground itself, and several fun trails start across the street! It's within a 10 minute drive of all trails in the Davidson River area.
For more information and to make reservations, visit the Davidson River Campground page on Recreation.gov.
From Asheville, take I-240 west to I-26 east. Take Asheville Airport exit (exit 9) and go south (right) on NC 280 for 16 miles. At the intersection with US 64/276, turn right onto US 276 and enter the National Forest.
US 276 follows the Davidson River most of the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, with many attractions and trailheads along the way.