North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
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Pigeon River Gorge

Pigeon River Gorge

Approximate Size: 7,309 acres

Old Growth Acreage: 991 acres

Location: Haywood County, North Carolina, 20 miles northwest of Canton; Pisgah National Forest, French Broad Ranger District

USGS Topographic Maps: Waterville, Lemon Gap, Cove Creek Gap

This area is the first one a hiker enters after leaving the Smokies, heading north on the Appalachian Trail (AT). The northern boundary is the North Carolina–Tennessee state line, and the AT follows the boundary here. Immediately to the north is the recently acquired Gulf tract, which has potential for addition to this area.

A buffalo trail crossed the gap between Snake and Rich Mountains north of Boone, NC. Gaps were very important in the development of trails and roads in the Native landscape and early settlement patterns of Europeans. Photo by Lamar Marshall.

The major creek draining the area is Groundhog Creek, which usually carries a large volume of water. The southern boundary of the area is I-40, which runs at the bottom of the Pigeon River Gorge. The topography from the ridge down to the river is exceptionally steep. Thanks to this natural protective feature, the lower slopes host a large amount of old growth forest.

There is an AT shelter in this tract. A scenic trail runs south from the shelter along Groundhog Creek, then bears east on an old logging railroad grade to Rube Rock Branch. After crossing that branch, the trail turns north to rejoin the AT. There is a trailhead on I-40, and this makes a good day-hike loop trip.

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