Author: Debbie Tullos
There’s no question a brisk hike is a great workout. Getting those muscles flexing and your heart pumping are sure to improve your vital stats, but there is mounting evidence that getting outdoors also has mental health benefits. North Carolina happens to be brimming with beautiful natural places for hikes, walks, picnics, quiet meditation, or just taking a deep breath. Places like Pisgah National Forest.
Pisgah National Forest is more than 500,000 acres of hardwood forest with rivers, waterfalls, and hundreds of miles of trails. You’ll find many varied opportunities to access its natural beauty, regardless of your taste in activities or abilities. Feel the cool breeze from a waterfall after the vigorous hike down Upper Falls Trail, or just pull right off the road to ponder Looking Glass Falls from an accessible wooden walkway.
Pisgah’s wide range of available water activities will let you look, listen, boat, float, slide or glide your way to releasing your stress and anxiety. The sound of water babbling, splashing, crashing or flowing, is known to have calming effects.
Trail Spotlight: Moore Cove Trail
One of the more popular trails at Pisgah National Forest is Moore Cove Trail. The relatively short, easy hike has a beautiful payoff at the end, but there’s no need to hurry. Stop, look, and listen. Even the 6-year-olds move more slowly here.
With many cars parked along Highway 276 near the trail head, one might assume the trail to be crowded, but the forest is big, and the trail accommodating.
No matter the season, nature puts on a show for all your senses. Fall is marked with leaves crunching beneath your feet and a fresh, earthy scent on the breeze of moss and mushrooms. Along the trail in spring, you may find a wide variety of wildflowers, such as Showy Orchids, Pink Ladyslipper, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Dwarf Iris.
The hike is enough, but there is a star in this show. Moore Cove Falls drops 50 feet over a cave-like rock outcropping. The trail ends at the observation deck in front of the falls. While you’re there, look around at how beautiful the scene is, but also take a moment to close your eyes. Listen to the water crashing down and take note of how the air around you feels. The air feels different near a waterfall. There’s nothing quite like it. Waterfalls are special places and Pisgah National Forest is known as the “Land of Waterfalls.”
While there is no shortage of more extreme outdoor adventure at Pisgah National Forest, such as rock climbing, long-distance backpacking, mountain biking, and off-highway vehicle riding, you don’t have to be a hard-core outdoor-type to enjoy the benefits of this vast natural space. In fact, Pisgah is so close to the town of Brevard, it’s possible to take your family camping at Davidson River Recreation Area, pop into town for a nice dinner in a restaurant, then back to your camp site for smores and stories around the camp fire! No matter how you get your green (green space, that is), a little or a lot, research has shown it to have positive effects on blood pressure, mood, and reduction of stress levels.
So, wherever you are, take the time to spend some time with nature. Your mind, body and soul will thank you.