Pink Beds Hiking Trail is one of the jewels on Pisgah National Forest. Located 3 miles from Cradle of Foresty and 4 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway on Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, this is one of our favorite hikes and picnic areas. Pink Beds is a kid-friendly and dog-friendly hike. It is also a hotspot for biodiversity! Pink Beds gets its name from settlers to the area seeing all the pink rhododendron blooms.
If you want a comfortable flat hike through a deciduous rainforest, this may be the spot for you. The trail is shaded, so it is perfect for a hot summer day. Being that this trail is flat, it makes a great beginners hike or hike with small children. There are two loops you can do, or you can make it out and back. The full loop is 5.1 miles long round trip. The small loop 3.4 miles.
Well, that largely depends on the time of the year. In winter, you are likely to have the place to your self mostly! In peak leaf season in the fall, it can get crowded but never packed. It is important to remember there are several picnic spots at the entrance, and the parking lot often appears pack. Many times this will be people stopping and getting out in the picnic area.
Dogs are allowed on all hiking trails in Pisgah National Forest. Your dog must be leased and under your control at all times. Pink Beds Loop is one of the best hiking trails for dogs around Asheville.
There is no campground, and dispersed camping is allowed, just not in the wildlife food plots. We recommend the camping spot on the cut-through trail, it is on top of the hill after the boardwalk ends if you go right on the loop.
Biking is seasonal here and only open for use from Oct 15 – Apr 15. Most of the trails are large enough to accommodate hikers and bikers except for a few river crossing, which are very shallow. The boardwalks through the bog and beaver area are also spacious. Bikes are forbidden on Barnett Branch Trail.
Pink Beds is home to a rare Southern Appalachian Mountain Bogs, only 500 acres remain. Being such limited habitat left this is home to several endangered species such as the Bog Turtle, Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant, and Bunched Arrowhead. Honestly, most people walk right past these and never see them. Viewing of the bog area is limited. Please stay on the trail in the bogs.
Birders will enjoy this spot—plenty of viewing opportunities in diverse habitats to be had on the half loop. Head to the right side of the trail to the beaver dam that is covered in snags and left side of the loop is covered in food plots.
Yes, you can, there are over 19 species of Firefly in Pisgah National Forest! This is one of the best areas to view fireflies in Pisgah. There will be little light pollution, and you can likely have the place to yourself. Ecotourism without the crowds if you will.
There are Blue Ghost Fireflies here Phausis reticulata are best found in late May and early June. These will be in wooded areas. We have had good luck in late May going to the left side of the loop and then taking the connector on the right. Right before the boardwalk begins, you will see what looks like a dispersed camping spot while still on a hill. This is a great place to set some chairs and enjoy the show.
Special note: There are lots of mushrooms on this trail, including Reshi on dead hemlock snags. If you are collecting, make sure to follow the rules and use the best practices so that the next person can collect some as well.
Yes, there are abundant wildflowers and numerous wildlife photo opportunities. The trails and boardwalks have great leading lines and make an excellent area for family photos or portraits of people in nature.
Fishing at the Pink Beds is the start of one of the best native trout waters in the region. As these are native trout waters, you will be under wild trout regulations. If you want the backcountry fishing experience accessible only by foot for your own personal slice of paradise, this may be the spot. Entering from the Pink Beds loop, you should expect the stream to be small and flat, and there will be bever dams along the way. At this end of Mills River, you will be targeting Wild Brown trout. As you work your way down the 12 miles of river, the fishing gets increasingly better as do the fish. 10 to 14 inch Rainbow Trout are common further down the river, and magnificent Browns are to be had for the lucky. This area is rarely fished, so you are likely to have these waters to yourself.
You can also put in at:
Wolf Ford Access or Turkey Pen
Yes, they have two covered shelters with tables and over twenty outdoor tables. All tables and shelters are free and open to the public unless reserved. If you would like to reserve a spot, give the rangers station a call
The trails are well marked, and there is a wooden map in the parking lot. Most of the outdoor stores like REI would have maps available or grab the National Geo Map from Amazon. If you like to support a local business, Davidson River Outfitters is located at the entrance to Pisgah.
Yes, you can see the Pink Beds from the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is more of a long-range view and does not come close to the hike’s experience. If you are on the Parkway, it is Mile Marker 410.
Pink Beds are open year-round, if you have any questions, you can reach the Ranger station here.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 to Exit 40. Turn right off of the highway and follow Highway 280 for 16 miles. Turn right onto 276/Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and go a little over ten miles, and you will see the sign on the right. You will pass Looking Glass Falls and Cradle of Forestry.
Directions from Blue Ridge Parkway: Take the exit for Forest Heritage Scenic Byway / Highway 276 at milepost 412. Head south for 4 miles