North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
Help Protect the Vulnerable Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests
 

Pigeon River Gorge

7,309 acres NCMT; 5,324 acres PWA

Recommendation: Backcountry Management Area or Special Biological Management Area

Naturalness: This area contains recovering forest and a large designated old growth patch.

Opportunities for Solitude: The rough terrain and vegetation screening provides ample opportunities for solitude.

Opportunities for Recreation: 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.. 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.

Ecological and other values: The Pigeon River Gorge Area provides a crucial wildlife corridor from Great Smoky Mountain National Park to areas of Pisgah and Cherokee National Forest. A ridge over tunnels above I-40 provides access for wildlife to cross I-40. The corridor over I-40 and through the Pigeon River Gorge Area is a critical wildlife corridor for the Appalachian Mountains. 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. The area includes a Significant Natural Heritage Area: Snowbird Creek/Cedar Cliff – PWA not IRA

Manageability: The area is manageable as backcountry, and is critical as an essential wildlife corridor. Immediately to the north is the recently acquired Gulf tract, which has potential for addition to this area

 

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