The Ultimate Pisgah National Forest Camping Guide

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Pisgah National Forest offers more than half a million acres of wilderness to explore, stretching from near the southernmost reaches of Western North Carolina to the northern border.

The National Forest is split into three ranger districts. The Pisgah District encompasses areas south of Asheville, the Grandfather District includes areas near Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Linville Gorge Wilderness, while the Appalachian District stretches along the Tennessee border.

There are dozens of Pisgah National Forest campgrounds and day-use areas for visitors to enjoy. Most of them are in fabulously picturesque locations, nestled deep in the forests and often near mountain streams or lakes.

There are also ample opportunities for Pisgah National Forest RV camping.

While there are no U.S. Forest Service cabins in Pisgah National Forest, privately-owned Pisgah National Forest cabin rentals are widely available.

In addition, there are a number of private campgrounds near Pisgah National Forest that offer cabins, treehouses, and other creature comforts.

Thanks to the moderate Pisgah National Forest weather, spring is often an inviting time for nature lovers to visit, with the verdant green forest dotted with beautiful North Carolina birds and wildflowers.

Read on for our in-depth guide to the official Pisgah National Forest camping and campground options, which we hope will help as you plan your visit to explore its towering mountains, wondrous waterfalls, and amazing hiking trails.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains

Pisgah National Forest Camping Guide

  1. Black Mountain Campground (Burnsville)
  2. Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area (Burnsville)
  3. Rocky Bluff Campground (Hot Springs)
  4. Harmon Den Horse Campground (Mars Hill)
  5. Curtis Creek Campground (Nebo)
  6. Mortimer Campground (Collettsville)
  7. Davidson River Campground (Pisgah Forest)
  8. Lake Powhatan Campground (Asheville)
  9. North Mills River Campground (Mills River)
  10. Sunburst Campground (Canton)
  11. Wolf Ford Horse Camp (Pisgah Forest)
  12. Free Camping in Pisgah National Forest 


Appalachian District

Black Mountain Campground- Mount Mitchell Trail - Pisgah National Forest campsites
Black Mountain Campground, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Black Mountain Campground

50 Black Mountain Campground Rd, Burnsville NC • 828-675-5616

Reservations: Official Website

Located on the South Toe River at the base of Mt. Mitchell (the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi), the Black Mountain Campground has 43 campsites.

This popular campground is mostly used for primitive Pisgah National Forest camping, but a few of the campsites do have electric hookups.

The sites also have all of the typical amenities—picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads—and the grounds have hot showers and flush toilets.

Black Mountain offers lots of opportunities for day-hiking, trout fishing, and trails for horses and mountain bikes. The main attraction here is the hike up to the peak of Mount Mitchell.

But there are also several notable Pisgah National Forest waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls nearby, including Roaring Fork Falls, Crabtree Falls, and Linville Falls.

READ MORE: Camping and Hiking in Mt Mitchell State Park in Burnsville NC

Roaring Fork Falls near Burnsville NC - camping in Pisgah National Forest
Roaring Fork Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area

8516 Highway 80 South, Burnsville NC • 828-675-5509

Reservations: Official Website

Set along the banks of the South Toe River, the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area has 35 sites for primitive tent camping in Pisgah National Forest.

There are no sites with electric or water hookups here. But the campground is equipped with hot showers and flush toilets, and the campsites all have picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads.

Carolina Hemlocks provides great access to the South Toe River for swimming, fishing, and tubing. There are also a couple of walking trails here.

From this Pisgah campground, campers can easily access Mt. Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the charming North Carolina Mountain Towns of Spruce Pine and Burnsville.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Burnsville NC

French Broad River at Hot Springs NC - Pisgah National Forest NC
French Broad River at Hot Springs NC, photo via Canva

3. Rocky Bluff Campground

2145 NC-209, Hot Springs NC • 828-689-9694

Reservations: Official Website

Located just west of the town of Hot Springs NC, the Rocky Bluff Campground has 18 sites for primitive camping in Pisgah National Forest.

These campsites are adjacent to Spring Creek, which is one of the North Carolina Mountain Heritage Trout Waters.

The campsites here are geared to serve tent campers and camping in passenger cars. All of them have picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads, and there are flush toilets and potable water available.

Outdoor recreation opportunities in the area include three trailheads at the campground and access to the Appalachian Trail. Fishing, kayaking, river tubing, and whitewater rafting are also available options.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Fall on Max Patch Mountain
Fall on Max Patch Mountain, photo via Canva

4. Harmon Den Horse Campground

632 Manor Rd, Mars Hill NC • 828-689-9694

Reservations: Official Website

Located 10 miles north of Weaverville in Mars Hill, the Harmon Den Horse Campground has 10 Pisgah National Forest campsites designed for equestrian enthusiasts.

All campsites must be reserved in advance: Each can accommodate up to 8 people and 4 horses, with parking space for one truck and trailer.

Amenities here include all the regular campsite accouterments, including drop toilets and hand-pumped potable water for the campground. There are also stables for horses, as well as livestock watering tanks and self-service manure stations.

This area has over 14 miles of horseback riding trails and 40 miles of hiking trails.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Max Patch (a popular spot on the Appalachian Trail) are both easy day trips from Harmon Den.

READ MORE: The 52 Best Hikes in North Carolina for the 52 Hikes Challenge


Grandfather District

Catawba Falls
Catawba Falls, photo via Canva

5. Curtis Creek Campground

109 East Lawing Dr, Nebo NC • 828-652-2144

Reservations: Official Website

Located about an hour east of Asheville near the town of Old Fort, the Curtis Creek Campground has three loops and 25 campsites, including set-ups for RVs up to 35 feet long.

One loop has drive-up campsites, while another loop has nothing but an open grassy area with tent sites.

All the campsites have picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads, while the campground has drop toilets, hand-pumped drinking water, and bear-proof trash receptacles.

The facility is located on Curtis Creek, which can be fished, and there are hiking trails.

Nearby attractions include the Mountain Gateway Museum and the Old Train Depot in Old Fort.

Catawba Falls is also close, as is Andrews Geyser, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mt. Mitchell State Park.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

View of the Linville Gorge from Hawksbill Mountain, in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
The Linville Gorge from Hawksbill Mountain, photo via Canva

6. Mortimer Campground

8410 Edgemont Rd, Collettsville NC • 828-652-2144

Reservations: Official Website

Located south of Grandfather Mountain, the Mortimer Campground has 19 campsites, including 5 tent-only, walk-in sites and 14 sites that can accommodate 35-foot-long RVs.

The campsites here have all the expected features, and the Pisgah National Forest campground also has running water, hot showers, and flush toilets.

Fishing and hiking are possible at Mortimer (which is located near the Wild & Scenic Wilson Creek), and there’s a designated picnic area as well.

Nearby attractions include the tourist-friendly town of Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain State Park.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is also nearby, with the closest major sites being Julian Price Memorial Park, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, and Linville Falls.

READ MORE: Visiting Linville Falls Campgrounds, RV Park & Cabins in Linville Falls NC


Pisgah District

Children Playing in Davidson River on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway
Children Playing in the Davidson River, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Davidson River Campground

1 Davidson River Circle, Pisgah Forest NC • 828-384-6666

Reservations: Official Website

Possibly the best place for camping in Pisgah National Forest for families, the Davidson River Campground is located right in the thick of the Pisgah District, with the Cradle of Forestry, dozen of waterfalls, and top-flight hikes all around.

It’s also close to Brevard and Hendersonville, two great Blue Ridge Mountain towns in NC to explore.

The Davidson River Campground is huge, with over 150 sites and the capacity to host just about any type of traveler, from tent campers to large RVs.

There are hot showers and flush toilets, and the campsite has a great swimming spot along the Davidson River.

The list of riches to explore nearby is staggering. A few of our favorites include Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock Falls, Pink Beds Loop Trail, The Cradle of Forestry, Moore Cove Falls, Tom’s Spring Falls, and Log Hollow Falls.

The Blue Ridge Parkway isn’t far away, either.

READ MORE: The Top 15 Waterfalls Near Brevard NC (Transylvania County)

Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes NC - North Carolina Arboretum
Wildflowers Atlanta the North Carolina Arboretum, photo by bobistraveling via CC BY 2.0.

8. Lake Powhatan Campground

375 Wesley Branch Rd., Asheville • 828-556-1034

Reservations: Official Website

If you’re seeking options for camping near Asheville, North Carolina, it’s difficult to find any that are closer than the Lake Powhatan Campground.

It’s right between Hendersonville and Asheville, not far from the I-26, in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.

Lake Powhatan offers standard, non-electric tent sites as well as RV sites with electric hook-ups. The campground also has flush toilets and hot showers.

There are also 12 sites for Pisgah glamping on Hardtime Loop, a popular hiking trail. Best of all, one of the most gorgeous lakes in North Carolina is within walking distance of all the campsites.

The Bent Creek area of Pisgah National Forest also offers fishing in the French Broad River, a swimming beach at the lake, and the North Carolina Arboretum.

The Biltmore Estate is very close by, as is the Sierra Nevada Brewery and other Asheville Breweries.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains to Visit

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest NC
Looking Glass Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

9. North Mills River Campground

5289 Mills River Rd., Mills River • 828-552-8040

Reservations: Official Website

North Mills River is only a few miles away from Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard.

Yet it provides a shaded little Pisgah Forest campground for visitors to enjoy some Blue Ridge Mountain serenity.

The 31 campsites at the North Mills River Campground all include picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads. There are also some non-electric sites for RVs.

The campground has hot showers and flush toilets, and the Mills River isn’t far from any of the campsites. 

This is a great place for camping near Pisgah Forest’s best Pisgah District attractions. Looking Glass Falls, The Cradle of Forestry, and Pink Beds are all a few miles south, and the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and NC Arboretum are just north.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals near Asheville, NC

Devil's Courthouse Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Devil’s Courthouse, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. Sunburst Campground

8820 Lake Logan Rd, Canton NC

Website: Official Website

Located 15 miles from Downtown Canton (and an hour from Asheville), the Sunburst Campground is a primitive, tent-only Pisgah campground with comfortable amenities and access to some of the lesser-visited corners of the forest.

The campsites have all of the expected amenities— picnic table, fire ring, lantern post, and tent pad—and the campground also has flush toilets.

Sites here are all first-come-first-served, and they must be paid for onsite.

Nearby, campers can visit Lake Logan, Sunburst Falls, and the Devil’s Courthouse. The Blue Ridge Parkway is only 10 miles away, with great overlooks such as Richland Balsam just a few miles to the northwest.

READ MORE: The 30 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

Entrance to Cradle of Forestry in America
Cradle of Forestry Entrance, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

11. Wolf Ford Horse Camp

1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest NC • 828-877-3265

Reservations: Official Website

Located near the town of Brevard, the Wolf Ford Horse Camp is only available for campers by reservation. It’s primarily designed for equestrian use, and it’s very rustic, with just pit toilets and no water or electricity available.

For horse riders, this is the best campground in the Pisgah District of the forest, which offers over 100 miles of horse-friendly trails to explore.

Wolf Ford is located near the south fork of the Mill River, with lots of creeks running nearby.

This campground is very close to many of the area’s top attractions, including the Cradle of Forestry, Looking Glass Falls, the North Carolina Wildlife Education Center & Fish Hatchery, and Mount Pisgah.

Brevard is only a few miles away, with the many lakes and waterfalls of Dupont State Recreational Forest just a few miles beyond that.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)

Waterfalls near Brevard NC Cathey's Creek Falls
Cathey’s Creek Falls, photo by Ken Lane via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pisgah National Forest Backcountry Camping

To minimize the impact of visitors on the local ecosystem, roadside and backcountry camping in Pisgah National Forest is limited to specific areas. But it is available in all of the different ranger districts.

This is a great option for those interested in free camping in Pisgah National Forest.

In the Appalachian district, the possibilities are limited to Big Ivy Road, Cold Springs Creek, and River Road along the French Broad River.

In the Grandfather district, only Curtis Creek is open to backcountry camping.

In the Pisgah district, there is dispersed camping available along Cathey’s Creek, Courthouse Creek, Wash Creek, Headwaters, Yellow Gap, and Avery Creek.

For more details, call the specific Pisgah National Forest NC district offices. –by Jonathon Engels; lead photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.