Dreaming of long hikes through rolling forests? Of paddling waters that cut through ancient landscapes? Of navigating your bike down a mountain trail that has you going so fast the hair on the back of your neck stands on end? That siren's call you hear is coming from North Carolina's Land of Waterfalls. However, Transylvania County is more than just waterfall tourism, some of its most rugged nature holds the best outdoor adventure.
Between Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Recreational Forest, and Gorges State Park, it would be impossible not to stumble over a great hiking trail. With everything from short hikes to multi-day wilderness treks, Transylvania County has something for every rec user. Whichever category you fall into, you need to know about these two highlights:
At a lengthy 49-km, the Art Loeb Trail will take more than one day to complete as it stretches along what feels like the edges of the Earth. Named for outdoor activist Art Loeb, this challenging trail shows off everything its namesake fought for while traversing a ridgeline vista. There are a number of loops to enjoy but you'll find the trailhead at Davidson River Campground. Art Loeb leads hikers to overnight shelters located at Butter Gap or Deep Gap, and exits on the other side at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp.
Alternatively, the Devil's Courthouse along Blue Ridge Parkway offers a totally different experience. At less than a kilometre, this trail is deceptively short, but challenging in its steep ascent. The cliffs at the top provide spectacular panoramic vistas, but for local legend hunters it is the jagged mountain cave that will hold their interest. Lending to the trail's name, this cave is said to be where the Devil holds his court, although that is just one of many legends that surround this mysterious and inspiring landmark.
With 250 waterfalls carving out their niches in the landscape, Transylvania County is no stranger to canyons. Experienced canyoneers who have a thirst for rappelling lofty waterfalls or climbing to sights obscured from leisurely hikers - welcome to your new playground.
To find some of the best canyoneering spots in Transylvania County, let Joe Moerschbaecker at Pura Vida Adventures be your guide. On his one-of-a-kind excursions, you will rappel down some of the best cascades in the Land of Waterfalls. Experience local landmarks from a unique new perspective and rock climbing in some of the most rugged canyons, like the Garden of the Gods in Pisgah National Forest. With short beginner trips for newbies and a handful of fantastic adventures for experienced canyoneers, no one will be left hanging.
Is seeing the forest from its floor no longer satisfying enough? You have likely been spoiled by the zipline tours sprouting up all over the United States, but what you don't know is the whole phenomenon started right here.
The Earthshine Discovery Centre is known as a hive of outdoor education, but this little inn is home to the first stateside zipline course. The days of old ropes and basic equipment are gone; Earthshine's canopy tours are state-of-the-art, securely whisking visitors through ancient forests. For a real thrill, sample their after-dark zipline tour.
For those who like to spend their days on the water, tubing along the Davidson River is an excellent way to experience Transylvania Country...but there is another intriguing route dedicated paddlers should take. It is an ancient tributary, the third oldest in the United States: the French Broad River.
Starting outside Rosman, the tributaries of the French Broad snake through the landscape, containing adventure for every level of paddler. For those looking for a real challenge, the class 4, 5, and 6 level rapids provide.
For less experienced paddlers wanting to explore the French Broad's many charms, take advantage of a number of local tour operators like Headwaters Outfitters, Pura Vida Adventures, and Looking Glass Outfitters.
Transylvania County didn't become the cycling capital of the South by chance. It has earned its accolades. 480-km of single track trails split between Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest, taking mountain bikers up and down the area's most challenging mountains.
We recommend first heading to Brevard to check out the area's cycling culture. Don't forget to grab an essential trail map before heading out to explore Transylvania County's trails on your own. The area contains routes for all levels of cyclists. Beginners road cyclists should eye Spin N'Grin, a 27-mile double loop through scenic countryside. Sassafras Express will suit intermediates at 39-miles long and with a descent that send cyclists whizzing up to 60 miles an hour. Mountain bikers will find excellent trails in the area as well. Ridgeline Trail is popular among recreational users, while Swank 65 is an expert level, 37-mile beast.
Do you count Transylvania County among your adventure playgrounds?
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