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Little Pisgah Mountain and Florence Nature Preserve, NC

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
5.8 mls N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Florence Nature Preserve
3 hours with 30 minutes of breaks
1,560 ft
11.5 mls N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Little Pisgah Mountain/Florence Nature Preserve
6 hours and 30 minutes with 2 hours of breaks
2,671 ft
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
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Park at the Florence Nature Preserve parking area on U.S. 74A. 35.47340, -82.33229

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins ()

Little Pisgah Mountain lacks the recognition of neighboring sights in the Hickory Nut Gorge but it may have the best view of them all. Tucked behind the Florence Nature Preserve, the mountain lies outside of an official trail system. It’s probably why most people have no idea it is an easy, albeit long road walk beyond the preserve. At the summit you’ll be treated to glorious 270° views north, east, and south of the rugged Hickory Nut Gorge and two of the tallest mountain ranges in North Carolina.

If you decide to forego the long hike and explore the nature preserve, you’ll still have a nice view from Rattlesnake Knob and see a surprisingly cool chute waterfall. Either way this is a spot worth checking out and is part of the push to expand hiking opportunities in the Hickory Nut Gorge.

Note - The trails in the Florence Nature Preserve have no official names and are simply referred to by their blaze color. There are multiple trails with the same color so it is recommended to bring the trail map on your hike

  • Mile 0.0 – Hike starts at the Florence Nature Preserve parking area on U.S. 74A. Take the FNP Access Trail (Yellow Trail) which switchbacks quickly above the parking area.
  • Mile 0.9Rock hop a tributary to Hickory Creek entering the Florence Nature Preserve. The FNP Yellow Trail ends at a T-junction with the Blue Trail. Turn right heading north along the stream.
  • Mile 1.1Small cascade beside the trail.
  • Mile 1.3T-junction with the Yellow Trail on the left, continue straight on the Blue Trail.
  • Mile 1.7T-junction with the White Trail on the left, continue straight on the Blue Trail.
  • Mile 1.8T-junction with the Orange Trail (to Little Pisgah Point overlook) on the right. Turn right on the Orange Trail for the optional out-and-back to Little Pisgah Point.
  • Mile 2.0 – Orange Trail ends at Little Pisgah Point, a small hill covered in large boulders. Turn around to continue hiking on the Blue Trail.
  • Mile 2.3 – Veer right onto the Blue Trail.
  • Mile 2.4 – After a wide bridge pass a T-junction with the Red Trail on the left.

    If you are ONLY hiking the 5.8 mile Florence Nature Preserve route turn left here onto the Red Trail and and continue following the directions at Mile 8.1

    If you're are hiking the entire circuit to Little Pisgah Mountain continue northwest on the Blue Trail and continue following the Mile 2.7 directions

  • Mile 2.7 – Blue Trail ends at the gravel Little Pisgah Road. Turn right heading east along the road. There are numerous forest roads and private drives branching off of Little Pisgah Road for the next 2.8 miles but the main road should be easy to follow.
  • Mile 3.55Forest road splits right.
  • Mile 3.6Forest road splits right.
  • Mile 3.7Private drive splits left. On the opposite side of the road is a field enclosed by barbed wire.
  • Mile 3.9 – A forest road turns left before a gate, continue straight.
  • Mile 4.2Little Pisgah Road meets Laughter Mountain Road at an open gap between Little Pisgah Mountain and Blue Rock Knob. Turn left heading directly towards the open summit of Little Pisgah Mountain. Instead of climbing steeply up to the summit the road winds between many cabins around the south and west side of the mountain.
  • Mile 5.5 – The road ends at the summit of Little Pisgah Mountain. At 4,412 feet Little Pisgah Mountain is the tallest peak in the Hickory Nut Mountains and even though the top is adorned with an antenna tower you are afforded beautiful, commanding views of the Hickory Nut Gorge region. Only the trees on the northwest side of the mountain block you from having a full panorama of Western North Carolina. Due north the Swannanoa Mountains pale in comparison to the mighty Great Craggy and Black Mountains. In the distant northeast you should be able to pick out Linville Gorge. The most inspiring view is to the east of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Shumont Mountain is the highest peak on the left side of the gorge. If you look closely you can see a rocky spire in the V-notch of the gorge, this is Chimney Rock. Towards the southeast the tallest mountain in view is Sugarloaf Mountain. The expansive bald on Bearwallow Mountain is due south directly across the gorge. The dominant ridgeline just south of west is Pisgah Ridge leading to the conical Mt. Pisgah.

    When you decide to head back you have two options. You can turn around and walk the 1.3 miles of forest road to the Laughter Mountain Road junction, or you can hike directly down the mountain cross country to shorten the trip. This hike describes the short, cross country version. In the summer it might be wiser to take the road since the brush on the hillside could be a nuisance.

    Hike directly down the mountainside northeast towards the Little Pisgah Road-Laughter Mountain Road junction in the distance. You will see a house down ahead of you on the right. Aim for the left side of this house and towards the near left corner of the barbed wire fence.

  • Mile 5.8 – The left corner of the barbed wire fence has a hop-over stile for safe passage. The fence is actually a border protection against cows grazing the conservation area around the mountain summit. Continue following the left side of the fence and pick up a forest road.
  • Mile 6.0 – Reach Little Pisgah Road and turn left heading back towards the Florence Nature Preserve.
  • Mile 7.8 – Turn left on the Blue Trail.
  • Mile 8.1 – Turn right on the Red Trail before crossing the bridge.
  • Mile 8.4Four-way intersection with the White Trail, continue hiking on the Red Trail.
  • Mile 9.0Y-junction with the Orange Trail. Turn left for a quick out-and-back to Rattlesnake Knob.
  • Mile 9.1 – Orange Trail ends at Rattlesnake Knob, a series of rock outcrops with a nice view of the V-notched Hickory Nut Gap. Head back to the junction with the Red Trail.
  • Mile 9.3 – Turn left on the Red Trail.
  • Mile 9.6A forest road splits right off the Red Trail. Beyond this junction the Red Trail follows a forest road track beside private houses.
  • Mile 10.0 – Red Trail ends at the Blue Trail while the forest road curves right. Veer left following the Blue Trail. The Blue Trail climbs up and down multiple drainage divides separating tributaries to Hickory Creek.
  • Mile 10.3 – Directly before a bridge over a tributary look down to the right for a side path to a slot waterfall. The stream flows over a wide rock before plunging through a narrow chute. The scramble path leads to the slippery base of the chute waterfall.
  • Mile 10.5 – Cross a small bridge over a tributary with a cascade upstream.
  • Mile 10.6 – Turn right on the FNP Access Trail (Yellow Trail).
  • Mile 11.5 – Hike ends at the Florence Nature Preserve parking on U.S. 74A.
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