For many, the best time to go hiking is during the fall months, with its cooler temperatures and opportunity to see more views. In Transylvania County, there are many miles to explore. With four major public lands within its borders — Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Recreational Forest, Gorges State Park and Headwaters State Forest — Transylvania County offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Pisgah National Forest itself has roughly 400 miles of trails. Popular routes in the Pisgah Ranger District include several around the Davidson River area and the Black Balsam area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hikes range from family-friendly jaunts to strenuous overnight treks. The 30-mile Art Loeb trailhead is a short hike from the Davidson River Campground. For more information, stop by the ranger station, which is located a mile from the forest entrance on U.S. 276, or call (828) 877-3265. There are 82 miles of forest roads and trails open to hiking in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Some hikes are easy. Hooker Falls is a quarter-of-a-mile walk from the Hooker Falls access area on Staton Road. The most popular forest destinations are Triple Falls and High Falls on the Little River. A 2.25-mile hike from the High Falls access area takes visitors by both waterfalls. Bridal Veil Falls is a 2.5-mile hike from the High Falls access area, or 2.25 miles from the Fawn Lake access area on Reasonover Road. There is a covered bridge on Buck Forest Road just above High Falls that is a 0.6-mile walk from the Buck Forest parking lot. Lake Julia, the largest lake in the forest at 99 acres, can be reached from either the Fawn Lake or Buck Forest access areas. Dense Lake is a short side trip off Conservation Road when going in from the Buck Forest parking lot. Fawn Lake is on the way to Lake Julia if one takes Fawn Lake Road to Conservation Road. A more strenuous walk is the trail to the top of Cedar Rock and a trail to the top of Stone Mountain, elevation 3,640 feet. Visitors who are up to the challenge will be rewarded by panoramic views from either location. The DuPont State Recreational Forest office may be reached at (828) 877-6527. Gorges State Park, located on N.C. 281 South off U.S. 64, has several great hiking opportunities. Among the area’s trails are the Auger Hole trail, a 7.25-mile trip (one-way) through the center of the park that ends at the Foothills Trail; and the Cane Brake trail, a 5-mile trip along the eastern boundary of the park, which also connects to the Foothills Trail at the top of Lake Jocassee, where the Toxaway River and Toxaway Creek meet. Visitors wishing to hike to the Horsepasture River area, which is owned and operated by the U.S. Forest Service, should follow signs in the park leading to the new Grassy Ridge Trailhead parking. Rainbow Falls offers a dramatic 150-foot drop along the Horsepasture River that creates a mist as it splashes into a pool at the bottom, resulting in a rainbow when the sun strikes it just right. Upstream is Turtleback Falls, a popular spot for sliding into a pool below. It should also be noted, however, that in 2016 there were multiple fatalities at Rainbow Falls. It is far too common for people swimming in the pool at the foot of Turtleback Fall to lose their footing on the rocks between Turtleback and Rainbow Falls and get swept over the edge. (Continued on pg. 46) Please exercise extreme caution when visiting these and all the other waterfalls, and keep a safe distance away from the top of Rainbow Falls. The Frozen Creek Access, located near Rosman on Frozen Creek Road, includes hiking access. Inexperienced hikers should not try and tackle the more remote trails in Gorges. For more information about Gorges, call (828) 966-9099 or visit www.ncparks.gov/gorges-state-park. Headwaters State Forest opened to the public in September of last year. This new forest encompasses 6,730 acres and will be managed as a “working forest” and open to foot traffic only. Visitors to the forest can expect informational kiosks at future parking areas off Glady Fork Road, Sassafras Mountain and Gum Gap that will lead them to worthy destinations. On the southern end of the forest is the Foothills Trail, a 77-mile through-hike trail that runs from Oconee State Park in South Carolina through western North Carolina and back to Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. Throughout the forest, a network of unmarked trails and old logging and 4-by-4 roads crisscross the property, and the N.C. Forest Service intends to leave it that way. For more information, go to www.ncforestservice.gov/headwaters/. In the western part of the county, Panthertown Valley is another popular destination. Schoolhouse Falls is probably the most popular hike, offering a beautiful waterfall and an excellent spot for a picnic or a swim. Other hiking options include the Shut-In Trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway from milepost 393.6 to milepost 405.5. These trails range from moderate to difficult. There are also many trails to discover at Graveyard Fields at milepost 418. The Graveyard Fields Loop Trail begins at the overlook. Other trails will take you to waterfalls. The Graveyard Ridge trail ascends and then travels along Graveyard Ridge itself before ending at the intersection with the Ivestor Gap and Mountains-to-Sea trails. Transylvania County also has its own hiking club – Pisgah Hikers (www.pisgahhikers.org) — which was formed in the late 1970s. The group offers something for every fitness level. Brevard’s Bike/Hike Path In addition to the hundreds of miles of trails for hiking and biking in the county’s parklands, the city of Brevard also has roughly 6 miles of multi-use paths, which can take a walker from downtown into the national forest. Every day, one can see joggers, walkers, cyclists, pet owners, parents and children taking advantage of the path. The 10-foot-wide path began in 2003 when the first phase was completed connecting the Transylvania County campus of Blue Ridge Community College to the city’s Sports Complex and the county’s Activity Center. Since then, the path has been expanded along Ecusta Road and into the national forest opposite the Lowe’s store. Other major segments include the trail’s expansion from the community college toward downtown and the current stopping point at McLean Road. There are plans to extend from McLean Road along Railroad Avenue to Probart Street in downtown. Another portion of the path goes from Brevard Elementary School along Gallimore Road to Brevard High School. The ultimate goal will be to connect the path from the high school to the downtown. Bracken Mountain Trails As well as the multi-use path, the city of Brevard in 2012 created 6 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking on its Bracken Mountain property, which is adjacent to the Brevard Music Center and overlooks downtown. One trail is a 4-mile loop around the mountain. This 5-foot-wide trail includes three bridges and access to two small cascades. Another 2-mile trail connects the mountain trail with Forest Road 475C. This allows hikers and mountain bikers to travel directly to the Pisgah Wildlife Education Center in Pisgah National Forest. There are also plans for the city’s multi-use path to connect one day with the Bracken Mountain parking lot. For more information about all local activities, go to www.transylvaniaexplorer.com.