Pisgah National Forest is a National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. It is administered by the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture. The Pisgah National Forest is completely contained within the state of North Carolina. The forest is managed together with the other three North Carolina National Forests (Croatan, Nantahala, and Uwharrie) from common headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. There are local ranger district offices located in Pisgah Forest, Mars Hill, and Nebo.
The Pisgah National Forest covers 512,758 acres (2075 km squ./ 801miles squ.) of mountainous terrain in the southern Appalachian Mountains, including parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Balsam Mountains. Elevations reach over 6,000 feet (1,800 m) and include some of the highest mountains in the eastern United States. Mount Mitchell, in Mount Mitchell State Park, is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River and lies just outside the boundary of Pisgah National Forest. The forest also includes tracts surrounding the city of Asheville, the city of Brevard and land in the French Broad River Valley. Recreational opportunities include hiking and backpacking, among others. The land and its resources are also used for hunting, wildlife management, and timber harvesting, as well as the North Carolina Arboretum. The forest lies in parts of 12 counties in western North Carolina. In descending order they are Transylvania, McDowell, Haywood, Madison, Caldwell, Burke, Yancey, Buncombe, Avery, Mitchell, Henderson, and Watauga counties.
Some 46,600 acres (189 km2) of old-growth forests have been identified in the Pisgah National Forest, with 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) in Linville Gorge.
The Pisgah National Forest is divided into 3 Ranger Districts: the Grandfather, Appalachian, and Pisgah districts. The Grandfather and Appalachian Ranger Districts lie in the northern mountains of North Carolina and include areas such as the Linville Gorge Wilderness, Wilson Creek, the watersheds of the Toe and Cane rivers, Roan Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, and the Big Ivy/Coleman Boundary area. The Appalachian Ranger District stretches along the Tennessee border from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park north to Hot Springs. The Appalachian Trail passes through this section of this National Forest.
Bent Creek, Mills River, and Davidson River - three major streams and tributaries of the French Broad River - are located in the Pisgah Ranger District, which lies on either side of the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, along the Pisgah Ridge and Balsam Mountains. Three long-distance recreational trails - the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Shut-In Trail, and the Art Loeb Trail travel through this district. Also included in the Pisgah Ranger District are the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses. The Blue Ridge Parkway transects this National Forest, and many National Forest and Parkway trails intersect.
The Pisgah National Forest was established in 1916, one of the first national forests in the eastern United States. The new preserve included approximately 86,700 acres that had been part of the Biltmore Estate, but were sold to the federal government in 1914 by Edith Vanderbilt. Some of the forest tracts were among the first purchases by the Forest Service under the Weeks Act of 1911. While national forests had already been created in the western United States, the Weeks Act provided the authority required to create national forests in the east as well. Although tracts in the future Pisgah National Forest were among the first purchased under the Weeks Act, the very first to receive formal approval was the 31,000-acre (130 km2) Gennett Purchase in northern Georgia. On March 25, 1921 Boone National Forest was added to Pisgah, and on July 10, 1936, most of Unaka National Forest was added. In 1954 the Pisgah National Forest was administratively combined with the Croatan and Nantahala national forests, collectively known as the National Forests of North Carolina.
American forestry has roots in what is now the Pisgah National Forest. The Cradle of Forestry, (Biltmore Forest School), located in the southern part of the forest, was the site of the first school of forestry in the United States. It operated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The school was opened and operated at the direction of George Washington Vanderbilt II, builder of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. The Forestry Education offered at Biltmore was taught by Carl Schenk. A native German Schenk was referred to Vanderbilt when Gifford Pinchot resigned to operate the newly formed Division of Forestry. The Cradle of Forestry and the Biltmore Estate played a major role in the birth of the U.S. Forest Service. Today these lands are part of an educational and recreational area in Pisgah National Forest.
Located on the forest property is the Bent Creek Campus of the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
There are three officially designated wilderness areas lying within Pisgah National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.Linville Gorge Wilderness
Middle Prong Wilderness
Shining Rock Wilderness