The small western North Carolina town of Brevard has a big backyard—the Pisgah National Forest. No surprise, the gateway to Pisgah is a hotbed for a variety of adventure junkies and outdoor enthusiasts from hardcore mountain bikers to casual hikers enjoying the area’s many waterfalls. Todd Branham, professional trail builder and race director of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, which begins just outside of town, is a longtime local who offered to share details about the area’s best recreation.

sweetest summit

Black Balsam—everything toward the Shining Rock Wilderness is unbelievable. Everyone I take up there is amazed. When you get above 6,000 feet, the landscape totally changes.

climb time

Looking Glass is only 10 minutes from town. The big hourglass-shaped rock is a phenomenal thing to behold, and it has an abundance of routes for climbers of all abilities.

backpack straight out of town
You can pick up the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from the ranger station located literally a minute from town. Basically, just hike out of town toward Looking Glass and John’s Rock.

essential mountain biking ride
We have no shortage of amazing mountain biking trails in Pisgah, but the classic ride for people just coming into the area is Laurel Mountain/Pilot Rock/Forest Service Road 1206. It’s an 18-mile loop of high quality trails that heads from Pisgah toward Mills River. You start in the woods with dense trees as big as kitchen tables and then drop off through jagged rock fields with big vista views.

day hike
There are more waterfalls in Transylvania County than any other county in the United States. The best place for a waterfall hike is the Dupont State Forest. You can catch High Falls and Triple Falls both within a mile-and-a-half hike.

downtown hangout
Jordan Street is where the locals hang out—good food and great beer.