The DuPont State Recreation Forest, more commonly known as DuPont State Forest or just DuPont Forest, offers 12,000+ acres of blow-your-mind beautiful wilderness in the North Carolina mountains.
The natural scenery here is so remarkable that several movies— including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans—have used the forest as a film location.
Tucked away in Transylvania County (which is famed for its cascades), DuPont Forest is home to a slew of North Carolina’s top waterfalls, including High Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Additionally, the forest offers over 80 miles of multi-use trails (for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding), several lakes (for swimming, kayaking, and fishing), and a fantastic collection of picnic shelters (some of which also have outdoor fireplaces).
For those visiting Brevard, Hendersonville, or Asheville NC, the forest makes for an easy and rewarding day trip. But it can also be a vacation destination all its own!
Read on for our guide to the best things to do in DuPont Forest, from hiking and waterfalls to fishing, camping, and more.
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DuPont State Recreational Forest Info
ADDRESS: 89 Buck Forest Rd, Cedar Mountain NC 28718
DUPONT STATE FOREST RESERVATIONS (PICNIC SHELTERS): 828-877-6527 ext 207
DUPONT STATE FOREST MAP: PDF
ENTRY FEES: None
The History of Dupont State Forest
As you might guess, DuPont State Forest is on land that once housed production areas (for silicon and x-ray film) for the DuPont Corporation. The transition from industrial complex to public recreation space happened in the late 1990s.
First, in 1996, the state of North Carolina bought the 7600-acre tract of forest that surrounded DuPont’s factories. Then the Conservation Fund bought 500 acres (later incorporated into the state forest), and Sterling Diagnostic Imaging acquired the 2700-acre industrial site.
Later, Sterling Diagnostic sold 2200 acres to a development company, Cliff Communities, which wanted to use the forest’s famous waterfalls as a centerpiece for an upscale gated neighborhood.
Thankfully, local environmental NGOs, the NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund, and Friends of the Falls (now Friends of DuPont State Forest) battled to keep the falls public. They won out in 2000, when NC Governor Jim Hunt used the state’s eminent domain to buy the land from the developers.
In the two decades since then, smaller conservation efforts have steadily added more acreage to DuPont State Recreational Forest.
Additionally, thousands of acres around the forest are in private hands, but have conservation easements protecting them.
A 476-acre tract of contaminated land—known as The Donut Hole—was donated by DuPont in 2017, with their agreement to clean it up still under way.
In 2019, nearly 800 acres around Cascade Lake were donated by philanthropist Charles S. Pickelsimer, and in 2019-20 Conserving Carolina added just over 700 acres to the tally.
So the protected land seems to be growing over time, and DuPont Forest is a fantastic example of what good can be done when communities and companies decide to do it together.
Things to Do in DuPont State Forest
As its name suggests, Dupont State Recreational Forest offers a plethora of outdoor attractions, both for active people and those who prefer to take it easy and just soak in the scenery.
Whether it’s breaking a sweat on an exhilarating hike around lovely lakes, racing down mountains on a bicycle, or gazing up at the grandiose waterfalls along the Little River, DuPont Forest has a lot of options for outdoor adventurers.
DuPont State Forest Waterfalls
The waterfalls at DuPont State Forest are simply dazzling.
Some of these falls are very easy to access, requiring less than a mile of hiking. For those wanting to be more active, a few hours of hiking can include several of the state’s most beautiful waterfalls.
The best waterfall walk is about three miles round-trip. Hooker Falls is 0.3 miles from the Hooker Falls Access Area, while Triple Falls (a personal favorite) is less than a half-mile past Hooker Falls, and High Falls is only 0.6 miles further than that.
The other famous waterfall in DuPont Forest (and also on Little River) is Bridal Veil Falls.
Reaching Bridal Veil Falls requires a little over two miles of hiking. It can be accessed from either the High Falls Access Area (2.5 miles) or the Fawn Lake Access Area (2.1 miles).
Wintergreen Falls and Grassy Creek Falls are both located along Grassy Creek, and can be most easily reached via Guion Farm and the High Falls Access Area, respectively.
Other DuPont Trails
The most highly trafficked DuPont trails are in the “waterfall corridor” described above. But there are many more hiking trails to be explored in the expansive forest.
The Stone Mountain Trail is 2.7 miles round-trip, leading hikers to summit the tallest mountain in the DuPont Forest (3,620 feet).
The hike is rated difficult due to the steep ascent, but the trail is not technically challenging. The trailhead is located off of Sky Valley Road.
Another sky-scraping hike is the trip to the top of Cedar Rock Mountain. It’s a little less than two miles, and a bit less strenuous than the Stone Mountain Trail.
Use the Corn Mill Shoals trailhead (near the southwest entrance) to access the Big Rock Trail. The views from its summit reach into South Carolina.
For those who want to continue on with the waterworks, there’s also a very nice Three Lakes walk that begins at the High Falls Access Area.
From High Falls, cross the covered bridge on Buck Forest Road, then hang a right on Conservation Road, and look for the Pitch Pine trail on the left.
It’ll take you over the hills and through the woods to the Three Lakes Trail, then you can take Conservation Road back for a loop route.
Lake Julia, the DSRF’s largest lake at 99 acres, is a comfortable 2-mile walk down Conservation Road from the High Falls Access Area, or 1.7 miles from the Fawn Lake Access Area.
Mountain Biking in DuPont Forest
In addition to hiking, most of the Dupont Forest trails are open to mountain bikers.
The High Falls and Hooker Falls Access Areas are typically too congested for uninterrupted bike rides, but most of the other DuPont trails are notably less trafficked.
In fact, there are nearly 100 miles of varied use trail routes in the forest for visitors to enjoy.
Cedar Rock and the Burnt Mountain Loop is probably the top spot for cycling, and they are both easily accessed via the Corn Mill Shoals trailhead.
The trails starting from Guion Farm are well-suited for mountain bikers looking for less technically challenging courses. But note that these trails are also marquee routes for horseback riders.
Watch where you step, if you catch my drift!
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The multi-use trail systems in DuPont State Forest don’t just extended to cyclists and hikers. There are miles of trails open to equestrian activities.
Forest officials suggest parking at Guion Farm off Sky Valley Road, or the Lake Imaging Access Area via Staton Road.
Both of these spots can accommodate larger vehicles and trailers, and they offer direct access to the best horseback riding trails.
Riding trails are marked with “Share the Trail” signs, and the collection is extensive throughout the DuPont recreation area.
However, there are a few trails here that might not be optimal for riding.
Those in the waterfall corridor are heavily trafficked by pedestrians. And the Jim Branch and Ridgeline Trails are cyclist favorites, inadvertently bringing them into conflict with horseback riders at times.
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Hunting & Fishing
The DuPont Forest also has opportunities for hunters and anglers to get into the action.
There are five lakes within the park, all of which are considered inland-public fishing waters. And all of the streams within the park are designated as wild trout waters.
The section of the Little River beyond Hooker Falls to the edge of the park is considered a “delayed harvest” area.
Delayed harvest areas offer catch-and-release fishing for most of the year (October 1 through June 5), with only single-hook, artificial bait permitted.
Hunting in DuPont Forest is also allowed. Deer, turkey, and other small game can be hunted in designated areas (away from high-traffic spots) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in season.
Special DuPont hunting dates are released in July of each year.
The DuPont State Recreational Forest offers large covered picnic shelters in several areas throughout the forest. Some of them even have beautiful stone fireplaces.
They can be used by walk-ins if they.re not otherwise reserved. But for those wanting a guaranteed spot, they can be reserved for family reunions and parties.
To reserve a picnic shelter, get in touch with DSRF office at 828-877-6527. Reservations are $25-$60, depending on the size of the shelter.
Shelters are available at Triple Falls, High Falls, Lake Dense, Lake Imaging, and Guion Farm.
Of course, spreading a blanket out next to one of the picturesque mountain lakes or sitting on rocks at the foot of a waterfall makes for some memorable picnicking as well!
DuPont State Forest Camping & Cabins
There are no campgrounds or accommodations within the DSRF. In fact, the forest officially closes every day at 10pm, opening again at 5am.
However, there are great accommodation options– from fairly swanky to tent camping– all around the edges of the DuPont Forest boundary.
For good tent and RV sites and rustic cabins, the Black Forest Family Camping Resort (in Cedar Mountain( and Ash Grove Mountain Cabins and Camping (just south of Brevard) offer reasonably priced spots in the woods nearby.
The Sassy Goose has a lodge, cottage, and a pair of log cabins with a more upscale feel about them. A “Gem” in the Forest is a secluded log cabin within walking distance of DuPont Forest, with Direct TV, leather recliners, and the ability to sleep six.
In short, you should have no problems finding the perfect accomodation option for you nearby! —by Jonathon Engels, all photos by Emma Gallagher unless otherwise noted
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