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7 Family-Friendly Things to do in Pisgah National Forest for Cheap

As a parent, you are constantly trying to find activities that the kids will enjoy. There are so many exciting things for you to do that both kids and parents will love. Below is a list for you of 7 things to do to get more quality family time and enjoy the outdoors in Pisgah National Forest.

1. Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock is a must-see must-do for your family. It is a waterfall that Cascades over large boulders leading to a natural pool of water. During the warmer months of the year, take your family and slide down the waterfall with ease. There are lifeguards on duty in the summer months, and you can rent life jackets for those who are not strong swimmers. If you bring along the grandparents, they will enjoy sitting on the observation deck watching as your fearless family slides down the face of the rock.

Sliding rock is open year-round, so even if it’s cold, you can still go and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the waterfall flowing over the rocks. There is a fee of $4 per person during the busy summer months but free the rest of the year. Read more details here.

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2. Cradle of Forestry

Cradle of Forestry is a memorable historical adventure for your family. It has many exciting paved hiking trails leading you through the forest and exhibiting historic buildings and machinery showing what they would look like in the late 1800s here in Western North Carolina. You can self-guide the trails, or the visitor center offers guided hikes so you can learn more details about the exhibits and the area. Make sure to go to The Visitor Center and check out their exhibit hall and science lab. They also offer a movie “First in Forestry”. Do you need a little snack? Stop in and grab a homemade sandwich from the Cradle Cafe near the gift shop. The fee is $6 for 13 and up and $3 for 4-12. Read more about hiking trails and what it offers here.

3. Looking Glass Waterfall

Looking glass waterfall is a breathtaking view to take in. It has easy access, located right off Highway 276 in Pisgah Forest. You can view the waterfall from The Overlook at the parking area or take the stairway to the bottom of the falls. You can play in the water at the base of the falls, which the whole family will enjoy. The fee is FREE! Read more about Looking Glass Waterfall

4. Davidson River

The Davidson River is the main river that follows highway 276 in the heart of Pisgah National Forest. There is an unlimited amount of things to enjoy doing on the Davidson River. Here are the 3 top most popular family-friendly things.


The Davidson River is known for its fantastic trout fishing. There is no wrong spot for fishing on the Davidson River, so go anywhere. Park at the art Loeb trailhead, The Pisgah Fish Hatchery, or any pullover off Highway 276 next to the Davidson River. Do you need gear to start your fishing trip? There are Outfitters at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest. They are also a good resource on what the fish are biting on currently.


Oh, the fun you’ll have being on the Davidson River! Tubing is a favorite pastime for my family, and it will be for your family too. You can rent tubes at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest. My recommendation is to park at the Art Loeb trailhead parking lot float down to Sycamore Flats Recreational Area. If you only have one vehicle, park at the Art Loeb trailhead parking lot and walk the exercise trail that follows the river alongside the Davidson River Campground and put the tubes in at the campgrounds swimming hole, then float back to your vehicle.


Davidson River has sensational swimming holes. There is a very deep one located at the Davidson River Campground. Enjoy jumping off the rocks into the cool crisp water. Another easily accessible swimming hole is at the pullover parking area on highway 276 called the Shut-In picnic area. Here there is a small sandy beach with a very deep swimming area. Do you have little ones not ready for the deep swimming holes? Then just a few feet up or downstream are very shallow rocky areas to explore and look for fish, crayfish, salamanders, and the elusive hellbender.

5. Hiking

You want hiking trails? Pisgah has them. With over 500,000 Acres encompassing Pisgah National Forest, there’s a hiking trail for everyone. If you wish to have views as the destination of your hike go check out Looking Glass Rock Trail. This overlooks the grand national forest and a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is another long-range view hike down the road at John Rock Loop Trail. Are you looking for waterfalls? Moore Cove Falls is a short hike with a waterfall that you can walk behind. Your kids will love to look out from behind the falls. A more private and historical trail is Cemetery Loop Trail. This trail is less populated but is excellent for all ages. Need somewhere to be accessible for strollers or wheelchairs? Check out Cradle of Forestry with its paved hiking trails. 

6. Camping

Your family will love camping in Pisgah National Forest, whether it’s camping in Davidson River Campground with its modern amenities or roughing it out in the forest at many of the free campsites along the different forest service roads.

7. Pisgah Gem Mine

You will find Pisgah Gem Mine is an exciting attraction right outside the National Forest entrance. Take your kids and grandparents, buy an inexpensive bucket and start sifting through an adventure. Search for the treasures like the settlers did here in Western North Carolina a long time ago.