Transylvania County NC – The Land of Waterfalls

There is a place hidden in the mists of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just southwest of Asheville NC, where waterfalls and towering forests invite you to explore a mystical landscape – in this American Nomad adventure we’ll be exploring Transylvania County (NC) – The Land of Waterfalls.

Transylvania North Carolina is a crown jewel in the gorgeous peaks and valleys of the North Carolina Mountains. While each section of NC’s Appalachian Mountains a reflection of heaven on earth, there is a special wonder in Transylvania County.

The area is just off the beaten path from popular tourist hub Asheville, and maintains a truly mountain cool vibe – where you can immerse yourself in the scenery and culture of the NC highlands.

Why Transylvania: While we often associate the word ‘Transylvania’ with vampires and horror movies – this mountain county will only haunt you with it’s beauty and quirky charm.

Formed in 1861 from neighboring Henderson and Jackson counties, it’s name means ‘trans’ – across and ‘sylva’ – woods. The is a land across the woods.

Known as The Land of Waterfalls – Transylvania County is home to 250 waterfalls. It is a waterfall wanderer’s paradise, with countless miles of trails to pummeling rapids and dramatic cascades.

Transylvania County is the gateway to the Pisgah National Forest and Cradle of Forestry Museum.

It is also home to Dupont State Forest (where The Hunger Games was filmed), The Gorges State Park and many county recreational spots.

Why so many waterfalls?

Transylvania County is located in a temperate rainforest and one of the wettest counties in the US! This is due to the geology of its place on the Blue Ridge Escarpment causing an orographic rift. This influx of water leads to lush forests and thundering falls.

Planning your trip:

Brevard is off Highway 64- southwest of Asheville (about 30 minutes away).

Where to stay:

On my recent trip to Transylvania County I checked into The Hampton Inn in charming Brevard NC.

Brevard is the County Seat and cultural hub of Transylvania County. The town is helmed by Brevard College, which is renowned for its music program. Fun fact, I considered attending Brevard – but wound up at Nashville’s Belmont University.

The college has consistently provided excellent cultural and educational opportunities for the community and invited a culture of creativity in the close-knit mountain community.

Brevard is a must stop while in the area…the downtown district is lined with delicious local eateries, coffee shops, outdoor and apparel stores and popular local stores like Rocky’s.

On my recent trip to Brevard, I enjoyed strolling down connecting Broad and Main Streets in downtown Brevard, browsing the mix of eclectic shops and grabbing a coffee.

Downtown Brevard has a ton of great restaurants, but my favorite standbys are Rocky’s and The Falls Landing (Seafood)

Rocky’s is quintessential Main Street USA – with a nostalgic soda fountain and good eats like hotdogs and milkshakes you cannot go wrong. I also love Rocky’s adjoining market – they have a mix of fun tee-shirts and sweatshirts plus local foods and goods, including Pisgah Coffee and other local roasters.

And speaking of coffee…Brevard keeps hikers, tourists and local college students buzzing with several local coffee shops.

I’ve been a fan of Pisgah Roasters – which distributes their beans throughout the state (I actually discovered them at Atlantic Beach, NC)…Their headquarters is in Brevard and you can visit their shop in town.

Downtown I snagged a Maple Latte at cozy Cup and Saucer – the welcoming atmosphere reminds me of mountains meets British tea room – which small vintage landscape paintings (akin to Thomas Cole) and nooks for enjoying coffee, treats or lunch.

Cup and Saucer offers gluten free and vegan options. I have gluten intolerance so I was thrill to indulge in the savory and sweet coffee cake muffin (YUM)

Just down the street you can get an extra shot at Quotations – a coffee cafe perfect for meeting with friends and enjoying a light meal. They offer delicious smoothies if java or tea aren’t on your mind.

and in the spirit of ‘Destination Coffee’ (American Nomad’s new blog feature) I’ve included a few more coffee haunts in Brevard below:

These are just a few of the cafe highlights in Transylvania County for more goodness check out the Brevard restaurant guide.

Also in Brevard:

Check to see if you can catch a local performance at Brevard College…also the Transylvania Heritage Museum is a must for history lovers.

Highlights in Transylvania County:

While it could take a lifetime to discover all the wonders in TC – luckily you can cover a lot of ground in a few days.

On my recent trip I had a day and a half in the area and was able to enjoy a lot of scenery with proper planning.

  • Must do:
  • Pisgah National Forest: Brevard is the gateway to the Pisgah National Forest. Dedicated in 1916 as one of the first national forests in the US, Pisgah is comprised of more than 500,000 acres of hardwood forest, rambling rivers, thundering cascades and mountain peaks that kiss the clouds.
    • Access while in TC: The sixteen mile Pisgah Highway (276 North) is one of the most scenic byways in NC. It meanders through the shade of this old growth forests for sixteen miles before connecting to The Blue Ridge Parkway.
    • Fun fact: Nearly 100,000 acres of the forest near Asheville was once part of Biltmore Estate and donated to the NFS by Edith Vanderbilt.
    • Stop: Located on the site of the United States’ first forestry school, the Cradle of Forestry Museum dives into the history of the forest service and the Pisgah National Forest. Worth the visit.
  • Sliding Rock- this popular watering hole is on National Forest Land, just north of Looking Glass Falls and roughly 8 miles north of Brevard. Sliding Rock is a naturally occurring waterslide that is perfect for a hot summer day. Learn more here.
  • Looking Glass Falls:
    • While it is a tourist hive – you MUST at least drive by Looking Glass Falls. There is a reason it is the ‘crown’ of waterfall country – gracing countless travel books and magazines. Looking Glass Falls is easily accessible roadside via Highway 276 North (The Pisgah Highway). You can see the falls from the road, but please stop and park if you have time. It is worth the ‘plunge’ to battle the traffic for this view.
  • Dupont State Forest: Hands down one of the prettiest places in NC. Located roughly ten minutes south of Brevard on Highway 276 South, Dupont State Forest is home to three major waterfalls and countless recreational opportunities.
    • I arrived at the park just after 8 a.m. (a miracle for me as I am not a morning person, but I was determined to see the falls before work). I started off at the Hooker Falls parking area. The Hooker Falls trail is fairly moderate and less than a mile. The reward is immeasurable – jaw dropping views.
    • Triple Falls is accessible via the Hooker Falls parking area – it is a bit harder given the amount of rocks near the riverfront (Little River) and steep incline, but the views are amazing
    • High Falls – I missed High Falls this time, but you can reach the falls via a marked trail at the High Falls parking lot (south of Hooker Falls, off the State Forest Road)
    • You can do a loop of the three waterfalls (roughly a 3 mile hike).
    • To get hiking and park info click here.
  • Gorges State Park: on the western edge of Transylvania County this is one of my favorite state parks in NC – offering endless hiking and recreational opportunities. Stop in the visitor center to learn about the park’s history and geology of the land before hiking to Rainbow and Turtleback Falls (or one of the many cascade trails in the park)
  • French Broad River: visit the headwaters of the mighty French Broad River near the quaint outdoorsy town of Rosman. You can book a paddle or fishing trip from Headwaters Outfitters here.
  • Connestee Falls: Located just south of Brevard, you’ll find easy to access Connestee Falls at the end of a parking lot. The falls are AMAZING – with such power and grace you almost feel guilty that you just had to walk a few steps.
Connestee Falls

It’s all about The Waterfalls:

It would take hours to months to write about each of the amazing waterfalls in Transylvania County – my advice is to focus on 1 or 2 waterfall trails to start and then return for more. It is okay if you cannot see every waterfall on the first trip. The good news is that many of the falls are fairly easy to access via well marked trails or roadside access.

For a waterfall guide I recommend Brevard’s Tourism Website.

Hooker Falls – Dupont State Forest
Triple Falls Trail

Next time we’ll be driving south from Brevard into South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Upcountry – get ready for more adventure!

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