Davidson River Campground in Pisgah National Forest
Once again, as we did for our Black Mountain Campground adventure, we headed to the North Carolina mountains to escape the high heat and enjoy the nearby rivers and waterfalls for some old-fashioned summertime fun and relaxation. The Davidson River Campground consists of 8 loops with restrooms and hot showers located in each loop. Most campsites are shaded, and if you plan far enough ahead, you can get the riverfront campsites where you'll find pancake-friendly wild raspberries.
- Open year round; electric hookups available.
- Black bear territory - keep a clean campsite and store food and scented items properly.
Davidson River Campground Trailheads
Exercise Loop Trail
A gentle loop trail that follows the Davidson River upstream from the Art Loeb Trailhead parking lot, passing the historic English chapel, before crossing Highway US-276 and returning on a forested path back toward your original starting point.
- Easy, well-groomed 1.5 mile loop (requires crossing the highway twice - do be careful of traffic)
North Slope Loop Trail
The North Slope Loop Trail begins with a heart-pumping steep incline, but be assured that it levels out as the path follows along the North Slope ridge. We enjoyed the fern-covered gulches and gullies and rhododendron tunnels. According to a hiker from the opposite direction, we missed a black bear by 10 minutes. There are no waterfalls or epic views, but a peaceful trail to wind down the evening while at Davidson River Campground.
- Moderate 3.8 mile loop; orange blaze
Art Loeb Trail
The Art Loeb Trail, a demanding thru-hike named for the conservationist Art Loeb, crosses four 6,000 ft mountains with breathtaking views along the way. Ranked as one of the thirty best North American hikes, a hiker can choose between making an extended backpacking trip (3-5 days) from the trailhead at the Davidson River Campground to the northern end or hike a segment for a challenging day hike.
- Difficult: 30.1 miles end-to-end
- If hiking end-to-end, the northern part of this trail is not well marked - a good map and excellent navigational skills are highly recommended.
Davidson River Tubing
With a riverfront campsite, our family could not resist purchasing tubes for floating down the Davidson River. We hopped into the chilly waters and spent 45 minutes relaxing on the relatively calm waterway, exiting at the Sycamore Flats Recreational Area . Depending on the water levels, be prepared for a couple of bumpy places that might require getting out to walk over rocks or around debris. A perfect way to spend a hot summer day!
- Not camping? Park at Davidson River Campground and put-in at the bridge near the campground entrance.
- Self shuttle: Either use two cars or have one person walk back (15-20 min walk) to get the car.
Nearby Pisgah National Forest Waterfalls & Swimming Holes
Situated in the "Land of Waterfalls," the Davidson River Campground offers campers over 250 waterfalls to explore in this beautiful corner of North Carolina. Here are a few of our favorites that we visited.
Looking Glass Falls
A picturesque, 60 ft waterfall, the popular Looking Glass Falls scores high on beauty and accessibility. The waterfall is easily viewed from the upper observation deck or take the steps to the lower platforms for a close-up. On a hot summer day, cool off in the plunge pool (at your own risk). Looking Glass Falls is located less than 5 miles north from the Davidson River Campground, off US-276.
- Less than 1/2 mile round trip
- Arrive early to avoid crowds
- Open year round; no admission fees
Moore Cove Falls
Moore Cove Falls, about a mile north on US-276 from Looking Glass Falls, is a rewarding family-friendly hike. Follow the yellow blaze through lush woodland scenery, rich in ferns and rhododendrons, and across a number of foot bridges to the gentle 50 ft waterfall.
- Trail: 1.2 miles roundtrip
Slick Rock Falls
Another kid-friendly waterfall, Slick Rock Falls is a short, easy stroll from the parking area. To get to the 35 ft Slick Rock Falls, a more remote waterfall, go north out of the Davidson River Campground onto US-276 and then left onto National Forest 475 (at the sign for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery). Across from the fish hatchery, take the right fork onto a gravel, single lane road. Approximately a mile from the turnoff, look for the small parking area on the right. From there, you are only a few hundred feet from some rock scrambling, waterfall fun!
- Short, easy walk from the limited roadside parking area
- Watch out for the slippery rocks
Daniel Ridge Falls
Also known by the name Tom's Spring Branch Falls or Jackson Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls, a 150-foot gently cascading waterfall, should be added to your family -friendly waterfall hikes. At the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and State Fish Hatchery, stay left at the fork for about 2-1/2 miles. The last mile will be on a bumpy, gravel road. At the parking area, walk past the gate on a former logging road that takes you across a bridge spanning the Davidson River. To hike directly to the waterfall, take the right fork (wooden sign "Falls") at the Daniel Ridge Loop trail intersection. Let the kids scramble around the rocks and cool off their toes.
- Trail (red blaze): Loop mileage (4 miles); directly to waterfall and back (1 mile)
Less than 30 minutes away from Davidson River Campground, check out an amazing swimming hole, the 12 ft Hooker Falls, located in Dupont State Recreational Forest. What the Hooker Falls lacks in height, it more than compensates for its expansive swimming area. If you are feeling ambitious, check out the 4-mile hike for a waterfall trifecta: Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls.
- Trail: 1/4 mile from parking to the Hooker Falls
- No jumping off the waterfalls
Dolly's Dairy Bar & Gift Shop
Just down the road from Davidson River Campground, you'll find the colorful Dolly's Dairy Bar & Gift Shop - stop here for a refreshing treat of ice cream after a full day of tubing or hiking.
- Address: 128 Pisgah Hwy, Pisgah Forest, North Carolina 28768
- Hours: 12-8pm Tuesday-Sunday; closed Mondays