CDS Hiking Challenge
As an NC Green School of Excellence, we seek to broaden what we do as a school to foster an appreciation and respect in our students for the wonders of our beautiful natural surroundings.
In 2017-18, CDS students and faculty undertook a Hiking Challenge with the goal of completing eight hikes between the beginning of the school year and Earth Week in the spring. The challenge officially launched on August 25 when CDS hosted nationally-acclaimed hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis for an inspirational talk for students in Middle and Lower school.
WNC Tried-and-True Hikes
Skinny Dip Falls – 45 minutes from CDS
One of our all-time favorites, this ½ mile hike leads to a gorgeous set of falls with crystal-clear, ice-cold pools for swimming. Bring a mask! Extremely busy on summer weekends.
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to mile marker 417. Park in the Looking Glass Rock overlook on the left. Cross the road and follow the path which begins just next to the mile marker. Go a couple of hundred yards and look for wooden stairs leading up and to the left. Take these steps and continue on the trail for approximately ½ mile down to the creek. Prepare to be amazed.
Graveyard Fields – 45 minutes from CDS
One of the coolest natural water-play areas around, plus great hiking
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to near mile marker 418. Look for the Graveyard Fields parking area on the right. If it is a weekend in the summer, be prepared to park 200 yards away on the shoulder of the road. Follow the right-hand path down to the creek. Cross the bridge. To the left is 200-300 yards of excellent, safe creek to play in.
To the right, follow the trail approximately 1/8 mile to the base of the waterfall. There is a great deep pool at the base of the waterfall for swimming.
Monkey Bottoms (AKA Calvin Trail, Montreat Creek) – 25 minutes from CDS
Fun creek play area with a fabulous picnic area – excellent tables and grills
Take I-40 east to exit 64 (Black Mountain/Montreat), exit and go left through Black Mountain. Continue north on Montreat Road through the Montreat gate. Proceed until you pass Lake Susan on the right. Take the left (Greybeard) when the road splits just past the lake. Go approximately ½ mile and take the right at the sign for “Calvin Trail Picnic Area”. Go 200 feet and park on the right-hand side of the road in the pull-offs.
Bryan Trail Loop (AKA Montreat Creek) – 25 minutes from CDS
Short hike to a fun stretch of creek and a good-sized natural pool
Take I-40 east to exit 64 (Black Mountain/Montreat), exit and go left through Black Mountain. Continue north on Montreat Road through the Montreat gate. Proceed until you pass Lake Susan on the right. Take the left (Greybeard) when the road splits just past the lake. Follow Greybeard until the pavement ends in a gravel parking area (approx. 2 miles). From the parking area, head up the path to the left, which skirts a small pond before cutting to the right. Follow the trail for about 5-10 minutes until you come to the “Bridge of Hope” on the right. Pool is just above the bridge.
Dupont State Forest – 45 minutes from CDS
Short hikes to the best waterfalls in western North Carolina
Take I-26 east to Exit 40, and take NC-280 (Airport Road) toward Pisgah Forest for approx. 13 miles. Turn left (east) on US-64 and go 3.7 miles to the Texaco station in Penrose. Turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and continue 4.3 miles until you see the “Smurf House” –bright blue – on the right. Turn right on DuPont Road. From here, there are several possibilities:
- Hooker Falls – Go 3.1 miles on DuPont Road (which turns into Staton Road) to the Hooker Falls Access Area on the right, just before the DOT bridge across the Little River. Follow the trail to the falls. There are several good creekplay areas on the left before you get to the falls.
- High Falls, Triple Falls – Go 4. 0 miles on DuPont Road (which turns into Staton Road). Go past the Hooker Falls Access to Buck Forest Access Area on the left, up the hill approx. ½ mile. In the parking lot is a board with trail directions to High Falls and Triple Falls, among others.
- Wintergreen Falls – Go 0.7 miles on DuPont Road to a left on Sky Valley Road. Follow Sky Valley Road past the junction of Old CCC Road and park at the Guion Farm Access Area, 1.6 miles on the right. Walk south through the grassy field away from the Guion farm until the clearing ends, and continue along the Tarkiln Branch Road as it bends south (away from Sky Valley Rd.) After a short distance, the trail will cross the small Tarkiln Creek. A short distance beyond the creek, take a right fork. At about 3/4 mile from the parking lot, turn left onto Wintergreen Falls Trail (formerly Grassy Creek Road) at the marked intersection. Continue for about 1/3 mile on Wintergreen Falls Trail, then bear to the left at the major fork. (The right fork leads to the ford of the Grassy Creek.) Continue parallel to the creek. Do not take the eroded path up the steep incline, but find the footpath just beyond and to the right of it. Scramble over the boulders on a narrow footpath to the 20′ falls.
Catawba Falls – 35 minutes from CDS
Longer (30-40 minutes) but fairly level hike with a good waterfall at the end, especially after a good rain
Take I-40 east to the SECOND Old Fort exit. Before you get to the end of the exit ramp, take the sharp right turn onto what looks like an access road. Follow this road to the end (3-4 miles) and cross the bridge. You will see a new parking area and a trailhead near the bathrooms (if the road is blocked at the bridge, just park on the side of the road and walk across the bridge and on through the parking area to the trailhead). This trail takes you all the way to the falls, and it’s at least a mile or so, maybe 45 minutes. When the trail becomes questionable, follow the blazes carefully to the base of the falls. A trail that leads up to the right of the falls is extremely steep and quite dangerous (NOT recommended for kids), but it eventually leads to a beautiful waterfall and a nice, quiet pool above the main falls.
Warren Wilson River Trail – 15 minutes from CDS
Easy drive to a nice cool-off spot along the Swannanoa River
Take I-40 east to exit 55 (Oteen/East Asheville), exit and go left to the stoplight on 70. Take a right onto 70 and proceed about 2 miles to Warren Wilson College Road on the left. Take that left and go about 1-2 miles to the bridge that spans the Swannanoa River. Park in the gravel pullout on the left and hike down to and along the river in either direction.
Coontree Picnic Area/Moore Cove Falls—45 minutes from CDS
A decent picnic area with a deep pool for swimming in the chilly Davidson River/A short hike to a majestic waterfall
Travel south on Hendersonville Rd. to a right turn on Airport Rd. (NC 280) and follow to Pisgah Forest (16 mi.) where you will turn right onto NC 276 and proceed into Pisgah National Forest. Approximately 4 miles up 276 you will see Coontree Picnic Area on the left side of the road. The swimming area is located directly behind the picnic tables toward the left, but you have to ford the creek and proceed over the small “island” to the main swimming area. Moore Cove Falls is 6.6 miles from the stone entrance pillars on 276, beyond the Looking Glass Falls overlook on the right. Easy 1.6-mile roundtrip.
Cove Creek/Whaleback – 45 minutes from CDS
Lesser-known swimming holes, but beautiful and easily accessible
Travel south on Hendersonville Rd. to a right turn on Airport Rd. (NC 280) and follow to Pisgah Forest (16 mi.) where you will turn right onto NC 276 and proceed into Pisgah National Forest. Approximately 5 miles up 276, take the left-hand fork that leads toward the Fish Hatchery. Continue past the Hatchery entrance, traveling about 6 miles total, and look for the Cove Creek Group Camp entrance on the right (barred by a gate); pull off and park in the parking area on the left. From here you have two options:
- Cove Creek – walk up the gated road on the right for about ten minutes until you can see and hear waterfalls down in the creek on the right. There are several paths leading down to the creek, but the first one you come to is the safest. These paths lead down to the swimming area. If you continue up the road, you will soon (5 minutes) come to a large field (which is the first group campground). Stay on the road through the field; at the far end of the field, you will find a pool with a rock slide.
- Whaleback – from the parking pullout, head down the path leading into the woods (i.e. do not cross the road toward Cove Creek). Within 100 yards you will come to Whaleback on the Davidson River.
Azalea Park/Swannanoa River – 15 minutes from CDS
Easy drive to a nice cool-off spot along the Swannanoa River
Take I-40 east to exit 55 (Oteen/East Asheville), exit and go left to the stoplight on 70. Take a left onto 70 and proceed about 1/4 mile to Azalea Road on the left, just past the La Cocula Mexican Restaurant on the left. Take that left and go about 1-2 miles, past the dog park on the right to a sharp right-hand bend. You can park on the left just before the turn (if the gate is open) or proceed around the turn another couple hundred yards to the parking for the JBL soccer complex. From the unpaved parking area before the turn, head across the field down to several spots along the river.
Little Bradley Falls – 40 minutes from CDS
A two-mile out-and-back hike with several stream crossings to a nice pool and falls
Take I-26 south to exit 59, turn left on Holbert Cove Rd for 3 miles or so. When the road begins curving frequently downhill, you’re close. At the bottom of the hill, the road crosses Cove Creek. There is parking on the left before the bridge, and on the right after the bridge. There are trails leading from each side of the road here, and the one on the left leads to Big Bradley Falls downstream, another waterfall for another day. The trail for Little Bradley Falls will be the one on the right, on the other side of the street.
In the first 60 ft. of the trail you will notice it forks at a large tree. Head left along side the tree – not straight along the creek. As you ascend, the creek should be on your right and below you. Within a few hundred yards you will come to another fork in the trail. This time take the right fork down the ravine – not the left which curves around the ridge. Continue, with a couple stream crossings, to the falls about a mile in.
Carolina Hemlocks – 1 hour, 20 minutes from CDS
A bit of a drive but well worth it! Spectacular swimming holes at a National Forest Campground along the Toe River. There is a $5 charge for day use per vehicle.
From Asheville, take US 19 north for about 18 miles to exit 9. Turn right and travel approximately 21 miles, through Burnsville, then take a right onto the Micaville Loop. Travel about 1/2 mile and take a right onto State Highway 80 South. Stay on this for another maybe 8 miles until you see the entrance to the Carolina Hemlocks Campground on your right. Take a right into the Carolina Hemlocks lower loop and park at the swimming hole parking area.
The first swimming hole is right down from the parking lot, and the second is upstream about a three-minute walk.
Bubbling Cascades – 1 hour from CDS
The drive is longish but lovely the entire way. Beautiful bare rock and water with a couple small water slides and deep pools to soak in. Enjoy this spot before it becomes overly popular.
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south past Mount Pisgah, past Graveyard fields, and past Devil’s Courthouse; about a mile past Devil’s Courthouse, look for the junction with State Road 215. Take a right off the Parkway and then a left onto 215 toward Canton. Go 1.8 miles to the gravel pullout on the right (it’s not the first pullout) - you’ll know it’s the correct pullout when you see the eroded path leading down underneath the guardrail. Take this path down and cross the creek, traveling up to the rock - it will be obvious where you’re headed. The higher up the rock you go, the more awesome it becomes.