The Great Outdoors
Henderson County and its neighboring Western North Carolina counties boast beautiful, nationally recognized places for exploring the great outdoors. Year-round opportunities abound throughout the region for hiking, mountain biking, cycling, backpacking, camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, paddling and other outdoor activities in conservation areas, forests and other natural settings.
Bearwallow Mountain is in eastern Henderson County at an elevation of 4,232 feet above sea level. Both the Bearwallow Mountain Trail and the Trombatore Trail start from the same parking lot on Bearwallow Mountain Road. Parking is limited so carpooling is encouraged. The one-mile-long Bearwallow Trail features a grassy meadow at its summit along with a historic fire tower and a 360° view that includes such area landmarks as downtown Hendersonville, Mt. Pisgah, Mt. Mitchell, Hickory Nut Gorge and upstate South Carolina. The Trombatore Trail is a 2.4-mile hike through a forest with significant changes in elevation and panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Bearwallow Mountain.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
Stretching from Stone Mountain in Henderson County to Rich Mountain in Transylvania County, the 10,400-acre DuPont State Recreational Forest contains a variety of plant communities including rich hardwood coves, groves of white pine, upland oaks, spray cliff plants and sedges on granite domes. The forest features four spectacular waterfalls – Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls and Bridal Veil Falls – all within a three-hour walk along the Little River. In addition, Grassy Creek Falls, Wintergreen Falls and several mountain lakes can be found along the trails. The forest has approximately 80 miles of roads and trails open to hiking, biking and horseback riding. Visitor parking is available in six access areas located around the perimeter of the forest. Interior forest roads are not open to motorized vehicles. As part of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s Game Lands program, parts of the forest are open to deer, turkey and small game hunting on certain days and by permit only. For fishing, DuPont features impoundments, warm-water streams and cold-water streams. A state fishing license is required for anglers ages 16 and older. For more information about hunting or fishing, visit NCWildlife.org or call 888-248-6834. DuPont State Recreational Forest is open year-round from 5 AM to 10 PM. There is no public camping. Support for the forest also comes from the Friends of DuPont Forest, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the forest’s preservation.
The Ecusta Trail, when complete, will be a 19.1 mile, multi-use greenway along an unused railway corridor (rail-trail) connecting Hendersonville and Brevard. This 'linear park' will beckon people of all ages and abilities to reach destinations by walking, running, biking and wheelchair. The rail line meanders through fields and forests, beside streams, pastures and country churches, offering a picture-book walk through a life nurtured and cradled in the mountains of Western North Carolina. In the summer of 2023, partners expect to break ground on the first 5.7 miles of trail, running from Hendersonville to Horse Shoe. This section will begin at South Main Street in Hendersonville and end at US 64 after passing through Laurel Park. Conserving Carolina and Friends of the Ecusta Trail continue to raise funds needed to build the entire 19-mile trail. They are seeking generous donations from the community to complete the trail and make the dream of the Ecusta Trail real at last.
Holmes Educational State Forest
1299 Crab Creek Road, Hendersonville
9AM to 5PM, Tue-Fri and 11AM to 6PM, Sat & Sun, March-Oct 9AM to 5PM, Tue-Fri, Nov-Feb
Closed designated NC state holidays
Holmes Educational State Forest features nearly five miles of well-tended trails that vary in length and difficulty. The trails showcase a variety of native trees marked for identification and many varieties of wildflowers. Displays and self-guided tours teach about nature, ecology and forest management. Along the unique, easy, half-mile “Talking Tree Trail,” the trees themselves tell passersby why their type of tree is important to the forest. Holmes Educational State Forest features outdoor education workshops, picnic facilities, ranger conducted classes and a group campground that is available seasonally just for youth groups.
Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead
3836 Gerton Hwy, Gerton
Located on Highway 74 in the northeastern corner of Henderson County, this property is a trail access point. This trailhead park offers parking and access to hiking trails that lead to the Florence Preserve and the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead covers an area of 26 acres.
Wildcat Rock Trail
3823 Gerton Hwy, Gerton
Formerly known as the Little Bearwallow Falls Trail, Wildcat Rock Trail offers a moderate to very strenuous out-and-back hike that is up to 10 miles round-trip, featuring a waterfall, views from a rock outcrop and a meadow along the ridgeline. This trail can be customized for a short or long hike.
More Outdoor Adventure
Hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, backpackers, campers and water sports enthusiasts will find even more outdoor fun just beyond Henderson County, making its location ideal for day trips and weekend getaways to such public lands, conserved spaces and private attractions as:
- Appalachian Trail: NPS.gov/Appa
Bent Creek Experimental Forest: SRS.FS.USDA.gov/bentcreek
The Biltmore Estate: Biltmore.com
Blue Ridge Parkway: BlueRidgeParkway.org
Chimney Rock State Park: ChimneyRockPark.com
The Cradle of Forestry: GoFindOutdoors.org/Cradle-of-Forestry
Ecusta Trail: EcustaTrail.org
Gorges State Park: NCParks.gov/Gorges-State-Park
Grandfather Mountain: Grandfather.com
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: NPS.gov/GRSM/index.htm
Lake James State Park: NCParks.gov/Lake-James-State-Park
Lake Julian Park: BuncombeCounty.org/Governing/Depts/Parks/Facilities/Parks/Lake-Julian
Lake Lure Flowering Bridge: LakeLureFloweringBridge.org
Mount Mitchell State Park: NCParks.gov/Mount-Mitchell-State-Park
Nantahala National Forest: FS.USDA.gov/recarea/NFSNC/recarea
The North Carolina Arboretum: NCArboretum.org
Panthertown Valley: Panthertown.org
Pearson’s Falls & Glen: PearsonsFalls.org
- Pisgah National Forest: FS.USDA.gov/recarea/NFSNC/recarea
- Purple Martin Greenway: RutherfordtonTrails.com/Purple-Martin-Greenway
FISHING AND HUNTING
Anglers have bountiful opportunities in local rivers and lakes for fishing – including fly fishing – and public game lands offer hunting by permit. For more information, visit:
The Hendersonville Visitor Center’s page with local fishing resources at https://visithendersonvillenc.org/things-to-do
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for information about required licenses and permits, rules and regulations, hunting seasons and where to fish and hunt at NCWildlife.org.
Pisgah Chapter of Trout Unlimited with fishing maps, hatch charts, programs and more at PisgahTU.org.
CYCLING AND MOUNTAIN BIKING
- Blue Ridge Bicycle Club: BlueRidgeBicycleClub.org
- Downtown Asheville Racing Club: DARCCycling.com
- North Carolina Bike Routes: NCDOT.gov/BikePed/NCBikeways
- Pisgah Area SORBA: PisgahAreaSORBA.org
- Carolina Mountain Club: CarolinaMountainClub.org
- Conserving Carolina: ConservingCarolina.org
- High Country Hikers: HighCountryHikers.org
- Pisgah Hikers: PisgahHikers.org
SNOW SKIING, SNOWBOARDING & TUBING
- Asheville Ski Club: AshevilleSkiClub.com