Pink Beds Loop in Pisgah National Forest

The Pink Beds Loop trail in Pisgah National Forest is a fairly level hike, rated as easy.  I have hiked it 3 times, either solo or with a friend.   The trail varies from wide boardwalk to narrow “rooty” trail.  It passes through rhododendron tunnels, several beaver dams and ponds and a scenic meandering stream. With that being said, as a family hike, I would very much recommend that if you’re hiking with small children, hike only a small portion of it.  The trail crosses several very narrow foot bridges and other obstacles that might prove too much.  And honestly, even for me, the last mile and a half was more of a “where the heck is the trailhead” rather than “what beautiful woods and cleared meadows these are” type hike.  Given that, I will just describe how to get to the boardwalk area and the beaver dams and ponds.  The children will love it and you don’t have to try and entertain them after the dams. So, lets get started!  Driving from Asheville, head East on I-26 to Exit 40 (Airport Road) and turn right at the top of the exit ramp onto Airport Road.  You are headed towards Brevard on a road that changes names frequently from Airport Road to SR 280, etc, etc.  I am stubborn in simply calling the whole road Airport Road if thats ok with you.  Drive about 15-20 miles until you come to Pisgah Forest and the junction of US 276 and US 64.  Turn right onto US 276 and head north towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You want to stay on US 276, passing the Ranger Station (this will be the last chance for a civilized potty break, so you might consider taking advantage of it) on the right.  The Ranger Station has restrooms, a gift shop and a great little exhibition of black bears. Continue on 276 headed north, bearing right and passing Looking Glass Falls on the right, Sliding Rock Falls on the left on up the road.  After about 7 miles, you will be near the Cradle of Forestry on the right.  About one mile beyond the entrance to the Cradle of Forestry is the parking area for Pink Beds Picnic Area which is where the trailhead is located.  Pull in and I would suggest (if you can) park in the lower part of the parking area.  The area is marked as a wildlife viewing area, but in all my years, I have seen one bored opossum there. The trailhead is towards the left where the maintenance road is gated.  Simply walk around the gate and head down the road.  The trail goes downhill towards the stream (creek) and a footbridge on the right.  Image Cross over the stream on the footbridge and begin your adventure.  The trail is a “lollypop” style trail so you will see at the first Trail indicator two paths, one headed left, the other right.  Stay to your right and follow a narrow trail through rhododendron tunnels and a lot of roots on the trail.  This part of the trail gives the trail its name, as the trees shed their pink petals and coat the trail pinkish in nature.  About a quarter mile in, you will come to a long footbridge that will pass the first beaver dam and pond.  Be watchful for fish, butterflies, dragonflies and signs of beaver.  The first beaver dam is on the right, with the pond spreading out behind you as you face the dam.  There are no beaver lodges in sight, but plenty of signs of beaver activity.  Continue down the boardwalk to the second beaver dam and pond. On my last visit, 4/23/2014, my hiking buddy and I discovered several beaver felled trees all around.  Take a few minutes to examine the stumps to see the beaver tooth marks on the stumps.  There are several groups of wildflowers in the area, along with a lot of photo opportunities.  If you are quiet and don’t move around a lot (yeah, I know, with children thats going to be a miracle) you might see beaver in the ponds. When done, simply turn around and hike back out to the trailhead and have a family picnic at the picnic area.  Its a large meadow and who knows, you might see some deer or the same bored opossum I found last year. A Happy Hiker!

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