Get Outside- Outdoor Recreation in Henderson County

September 2, 2020

It is really hot outside and what better way to cool off than to hit the trails in one of our numerous areas for public, outdoor recreation. Henderson County is flanked to the north by Pisgah National Forest, to the west by DuPont State Recreational Forest and to the east by the Hickory Nut Gap Gorge, all offering abundant opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, paddle sports and swimming. Here are some of the best outdoor destinations in Henderson County, and few favorites elsewhere in the region.

Henderson County

Big Glassy Mountain- Carl Sandburg National Historic Site

Famous poet and Presidential biographer Carl Sandburg called Henderson County home, residing on a 267-acre farm in Flat Rock that was donated to the National Park Service upon his death in 1968. The 4-mile hike to Big Glassy Mountain is the most rewarding hike at the Sandburg home and offers great views of Pisgah Forest and upstate South Carolina from the summit. On your way back down be sure to visit the famous goat barn and explore the property to get the full Sandburg experience. Want to keep hiking? Ask a Ranger for a free map and combine the hike with little Glassy Mountain and the Lake Trail. Pet Friendly? Yes

Wintergreen Falls- DuPont State Recreational Forest

Wintergreen Falls is by far the best waterfall in Dupont for a peaceful dip. You may see some people, but not nearly as many as you’ll encounter at the popular Hooker Falls or Bridal Veil Falls. Park at Guion Farm and take the Guion Farm Connector to Tarklin Branch Road trail. Tarklin Branch intersects with the Wintergeen Falls Trail to the left. The route to the waterfall is obvious as are the footpaths that lead to smaller falls and great swimming holes along the creek. Numerous loops and longer-distance hikes can be created from this section in Dupont. Want to see more waterfalls while you’re there? Check out this hike.  Pet Friendly? Yes

Rattlesnake Knob- Florence Nature Preserve

On the eastern side of Henderson County, Florence Nature Preserve offers a network of 5+ miles of hiking trails on 600 beautiful acres on the slopes of Little Pisgah Mountain. The preserve features pristine creeks and cascades, scenic rock outcrops, the ruins of an old homesite, and areas of old growth forest. Start at the parking lot for the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead and follow the loop combing the Yellow, Blue, and White marked trails to the Rattlesnake Knob access trail (orange blaze). Enjoy the views and then finish the lollipop loop by turning left on the Red Trail at the Rattlesnake Knob access and finish on the Yellow, FNP Access trail. Pet Friendly? Yes

Turkeypen Gap- Pisgah National Forest

Visit the Turkeypen Gap area of Pisgah National Forest for endless adventure and recreation. Located off Highway 280 in Mills River, this section of forest offers hikers an extensive network of trails with varying distances including loops and routes that go deep into the heart of Pisgah for ambitious outdoor enthusiasts. Great campsites are abundant in Turkeypen and require a little as a half mile hike to access or can be found many miles in for those seeking solitude. The south fork of the Mills River winds through this area of Pisgah offering great swimming and fishing opportunities.

Pet Friendly? Yes

Bearwallow Mountain Trail

Visit the high point in Henderson County for exceptional scenery and 360-degree views of the surrounding area including views of Mount Mitchell and Mount Pisgah, downtown Hendersonville, and upstate South Carolina. This short, in and out hike is a great day hike for families looking to catch a western North Carolina sunset or have a picnic. You can combine it with a hike on the Trombatore Trail, which starts at the same trailhead, for a total seven-mile hike. Keep an eye out for the grazing cattle that also call Bearwallow Mountain home. Pet Friendly? Yes

Outside of Henderson County

Green River Gorge and Game Lands

The Green River cuts through the heart of southern Henderson County before diving south into neighboring Polk County. The area is protected by the 18,639-acre Game Lands which can be accessed within a 20-minute drive from Downtown Hendersonville, offering easy to extremely difficult hiking loops, world-class whitewater kayaking, hunting, swimming, and mountain biking. For the best the gorge has to offer, try this difficult 9 mile loop or check out Green River Adventures for both guided and solo kayaking recommendations. Want to explore the gorge by air? The Gorge Zipline is one of the premier ziplining experiences on the east coast and is a must-do during fall when the leaves change color.

Pet Friendly? Yes

Pinks Beds Loop- Pisgah National Forest

Underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway sits a network of high elevation bogs known as “Pink Beds” located adjacent to the site of first forestry school in the United States, The Cradle of Forestry. This is a great hike for families, offering mostly flat, 2 and 5-mile loops around the meandering streams and mountain swamps making this gorgeous loop an essential trip when visiting the most popular part of Pisgah National Forest. The South Fork of the Mills River originates in the Pink Beds and often floods to create a unique sediment base which triggers outstanding spring flower displays, in particular pink rhododendron, and hosts rare species of plant life. Pet Friendly? Yes

Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain Loop- Pisgah National Forest

There is arguably no better view in western North Carolina than the summit of Black Balsam and its neighboring peak Tennent Mountain. These 6,000+ feet naturally occurring mountain balds offer 360-degree views and plentiful hiking opportunities along the renowned Art Loeb Trail. This area offers a plethora of options ranging from under a mile to 10+ mile loops (the summit of Black Balsam is accessible under a mile). Black Balsam’s parking lot can be accessed off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Start on the spur trail and connect with the Art Loeb to summit Black Balsam. Continue on the Art Loeb over Tennent Mountain and descend into Ivestor Gap. Have a picnic and enjoy the views along the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness and head back to your car via the Ivestor Gap Trail for a moderate 6-mile loop with top-notch views. Overnight backpackers should continue into the Shining Rock for a host of great campsites and further exploration (don’t miss the unmarked summit trail to the Shining Rock or the summit hike to the famous Cold Mountain… yes, the same mountain as in the Nicole Kidman movie). Pet Friendly? Yes

Alum Cave Bluff Trail- Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is the most visited National Park in the United States and boasts magnificent outdoor recreation opportunities in this expansive, 522,427-acre park. Camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, canoeing are all great individual and family activities available in GSMNP (for a list of activities and sight-seeing start here.) For an incredible day hike that offers the best of the Smokies, hike the 5-mile Alum Cave Bluff Trail to the top of Mount LeConte. The trail is very well maintained and easy to follow but travels uphill for most of the way. If you don’t want to go to the top, it’s still worth every step to hike 2 miles up the trail to see the cave and rock formations that give the trail its name. Pet Friendly? No pets allowed on trails in GSMNP

Gear Up:

Mast General Store

527 N Main St, Hendersonville, NC 28792

Sycamore Cycles

743 Locust St, Hendersonville, NC 28792

The Bicycle Company

779 N Church St, #A, Hendersonville, NC 28792

Sherman’s Sports

126 N Main St, Hendersonville, NC 28792