There is a reward that comes from water during a hard-day’s workout, whether it be on foot or in the saddle.
Sitting at the base of a roaring waterfall with mist enveloping your face. Lying in the shade of a tree on the banks of a placid mountain reservoir while birds fly and butterflies flit around you. Dipping your sweating, throbbing feet into a crisp, clear mountain stream.
The chemical company DuPont came to the area between Brevard and Hendersonville in the 1950s in search of water, purchasing about 10,000 acres in the Little River watershed for its clean water needed to produce silicon chips and later X-ray film. DuPont also established a forestry management program on this land, selling some of the timber to Champion Paper.
In 1997, DuPont sold 7,640 acres to the state creating DuPont State Recreational Forest.
The area’s unique recreational features and extensive trail system led legislators to designate DuPont as a recreational forest, said Bruce MacDonald, communications manager for the forest. The forest’s annual legislative reports states “The forest is managed for natural resource conservation, scenic enjoyment and recreational purposes, including horseback riding, hiking, bicycling, hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities.”
Over the next 20 years, the forest grew through a number of acquisitions, including 2,200 acres along the Little River obtained by eminent domain in 2000 and recent purchases of adjacent lands. Today, the forest totals close to 12,000 acres, MacDonald said.
In managing the forest there is commercial timber harvesting that helps to provide revenue for the operation of the forest, but a lot of the forest has been designated as a nature preserve never to be harvested, MacDonald said. The forest also serves as an example to local land owners as how they might manage their land, he said.
As far as the recreational aspect, more than 600,000 visitors have come to DuPont in each of the past three years, up from about 150,000 a decade ago. There are 31 miles of forest roads and 52 miles of single-track trails that wind through hickory-oak forest, tulip poplar forest, mountain coves, plantations of white pine and over granite domes. All trails are designated as multiple use for the enjoyment of hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Such a vast network of trails with varied terrain makes DuPont especially attractive to mountain bikers. Camping is not permitted in the forest.
Visitors can download a copy of the latest trail map at the under the Explore the Forest tab on the forest’s website or pick up a free 11-by-17 paper copy at the forest visitor center. Trails are rated by difficulty.
And some of the most popular destinations in the DuPont are those water features: the six named waterfalls and six mountain lakes. Picnic shelters are found at five of those locations.
During our three days of hiking at DuPont, we covered 20 miles, yet feel there is so much more to be discovered. High Falls, which tumbles 125-feet over a granite incline and Bridal Veil Falls, which is featured in the movies “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Hunger Games”, are among the “don’t miss” stops.
Our group also found the banks of 99-acre Lake Julia is the perfect place for a trail lunch away from the crowds.
There are two resources that I found helpful in preparing for our visit: Hiking & Mountain Biking DuPont State Forest by Scott Lynch ($17.95) and DuPont State Recreational Forest, NC Trail Map by Pisgah Map Company ($13.99), both of which are available at Mast General Store.
Lynch’s pocket guide provides turn-by-turn directions for 27 with routes ranging from a 0.8-mile hike to Hooker Falls to a 33.3-mile bike route that covers all of DuPont Forest as well as general information on the forest, directions to all trailheads and lists of local bike shops and outfitters. Pisgah Map Company’s map is printed on a plastic base so it will hold up during that afternoon rain shower. It also suggests six mountain biking routes through the forest.
Because the visitor center parking lot is close to three of forest’s waterfalls (High Falls, Grassy Creek Falls and Triple Falls), the parking lot can fill up quickly. Visitors should call ahead or check the visitor center for trail closures.