Friday, October 25, 2013

Pisgah National Forest and the Balsam Mountain Inn

After our hike in DuPont State Forest we headed north past Brevard, NC and into the Pisgah National Forest. Just south of Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah (and its neighboring Nantahala National Forest) is full of things to do and places to see. For those wishing to get away from it all, Pisgah encompasses Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness; we, on the other hand, had more easily accessible destinations in mind. First up, Looking Glass Falls, possibly the best known waterfall in western NC. Right off of Highway 276, an overlook allows those not able to climb the stairs down to the base of the falls to enjoy a scenic vantage point. Looking Glass creek falls 60 feet into a perfect swimming hole, and continues south to eventually flow into the French Broad River. Both the creek and the falls are named after nearby Looking Glass Rock, upon which water will freeze in the winter resembling a mirror. We enjoyed a reflective moment at the base of the falls before climbing back up the stairs and continuing north along 276.

Our next stop was Sliding Rock, a favorite summer destination for hundreds. A 60 foot natural water slide, the smooth slab of rock provides a swift slide followed by a plunge into the pool at the base. Managed as a Forest Service recreationarea, lifeguards and staff are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day and a fee of $1/person is assessed upon entering the area. The slide is “at your own risk” when no lifeguard is on duty, but we’re saving the experience for a later, hopefully warmer date.

The Cradle of Forestry had already closed for the day, and so it happened that we continued on to our hotel, the beautiful Balsam Mountain Inn. Chosen by our friends partly due to the mentions in Southern Living (here and here) and partly due to availability, we were able to reserve one of the last two rooms and enjoy this great find. Our arrival coincided with the last of daylight, and as the sun set over the mountains the lights clicked on one by one to illuminate the magnificent Victorian structure - beacon, high up on the hill. We enjoyed a delicious dinner in the grand dining room and ordered the specials; parmesan encrusted salmon, surf and turf, the local catfish, and don't forget the dessert (white chocolate cheesecake)! Finally, another stop in the library before retiring to our comfortable rooms.

Opened in 1908 to serve the highest railroad station in the east (3,500 feet), the hotel is conveniently located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and a short distance from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Inspired by the Inn at Saratoga (in Saratoga Springs NY), the hotel stood empty for some years until restored and updated by the current owner in the early 1990s. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the 50-room hotel retains much of its charm with two 100 foot porches, a library (complete with fireplace), spectacular views, gorgeous heart pine floors and delicious meals.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and spent some time soaking up the sun and the view on the grand porch before heading out, for our cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our experience in the Balsam Mountain Inn was short, but the experience memorable, and I recommend the hotel to visitors in the area. Between the late night reading marathon in front of the fireplace in the library, to the modest (but comfortable) rooms; from the games and puzzles in the front lobby area to the rocking chairs on the two porches inviting guests to mingle and share; from the hearty dinner to the included breakfast; our stay in this quaint inn (just oozing mountain charm!) was near perfect.
Balsam Mountain Inn on Urbanspoon


  1. You do Fall so beautifully in the States. Looks like a wonderful weekend. My cousin is heading over to North Carolina next year for a University exchange, not exactly sure which city, but he's in for a treat by the looks! Mel x

  2. Hi There, We have done everything you talked about today (Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, and the Balsam Inn)... Loved all of them... We also love hiking in the Dupont area. Those waterfalls are AWESOME.

    Hope you had a good week. We have been in Kentucky with friends... Had a fantastic time although it was COLD there.



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