#4 of 17 Asheville Things To Do

DuPont State Forest

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Connect With North Carolina's Natural Wonders at the DuPont State Forest
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

DuPont State Forest is a 10,473-acre recreational area in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern North Carolina that began as a tract ceded to the state by Dupont Corporation. Visitors seek out this natural wonder for its waterfalls, native fauna, camping, and recreational opportunities. The park has been attracting people since 1997 and now draws more than 350,000 visitors every year.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

DuPont State Forest is located an hour south of Asheville, which means it can be a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a stop on the way to another city. Because of its proximity to Asheville, DuPont State Forest is a popular destination among Asheville residents who want a break from the bustle of the city. The forest is also about an hour and a half from Greenville, South Carolina, and less than three hours from Charlotte, North Carolina. Most visitors will agree that it’s worth the drive.

Wherever you enter the state forest and decide to spend your time, you’re sure to find beautiful falls and viewpoints. Fortunately, you don’t have to be athletically gifted to appreciate the forest because there are plenty of easy trails. Kids and elderly visitors can still find opportunities to connect with nature and enjoy the native North Carolina flora and fauna. While the forest is open for hunting and fishing (with the proper permits and during the correct seasons), the park isn’t currently fit for camping.

There is no “best time of year” to visit DuPont State Forest, and many residents of Asheville return to experience the different seasons there. Stop by in the fall to see the magnificent orange, yellow, and red foliage. During the winter, you’ll enjoy better views and fewer people, and because of the forest’s low elevation, temperatures are relatively moderate. In the spring, the forest comes alive with lush greenery and rushing waterfalls, and in the summer, it’s a playground for outdoor lovers.

DuPont State Forest is a great place to see some of North Carolina’s wildlife, including several endangered species. Check under rocks to find native skinks and small snakes (but watch out for rattlesnakes), or look up to see hawks, eagles, ravens, and migrating songbirds. You can see many water birds at the forest’s five lakes. Dupont is also home to foxes, black bears, deer, coyotes, bobcats, and many other animals. Talk to a local park ranger to learn what animals have been spotted so that you can look for them during your visit.

DuPont State Forest is considered one of the top mountain biking areas in the southeast, and it’s also popular with equestrians. Local guides have created policies for visitors who want to bring their mountain bikes or explore the park on horseback. These policies include rules for staying on the trails and being respectful of other visitors. However, ATVs or other motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the trails and need to stay on authorized roadways.

There are more than 80 miles of trails and dirt roads in the DuPont State Forest. This means that even experienced visitors should come prepared with maps, guides, and navigation tools. A few of the top sites to see on your trip to DuPont include:

  • Bridal Veil Falls, a long, meandering waterfall ending in a pool.
  • Cedar Rock Mountain is only a few hundred feet in the air and is actually a plateau, which means visitors can easily scale the top and enjoy a tree-lined view spanning several miles. This is definitely a great photography spot.
  • The Airstrip Trail starts at an unused emergency airstrip. Photographers will love this area early in the morning, when the abandoned airstrip has an eerie atmosphere.
  • Lake Dense, Lake Alford, and Lake Julia can be reached through various trails. You’ll walk an average of 1.4 miles to arrive at one of these lakes, but you can extend or shorten the walk as you like.

While these are the main attractions in the forest, visitors can find hidden spots throughout that inspire them. It’s important to note that management experts at the park encourage visitors to let friends, family, or their hotel concierge know what parts of the forest they’ll be visiting and when they’ll be back. Visitors are also advised to wear bright colors, especially during hunting season, and stick to the outlined trails.

Once you visit DuPont State Forest, you’ll understand why this natural gem is one of North Carolina’s top tourist attractions. And though there’s a lot to do and see in the park, you can return several times during your trip if you use Asheville as your base. Even if you have time for only one visit, DuPont State Forest is a must-see destination for nature lovers.

Insider Tips:

  • Fans of the popular movie “The Hunger Games,” which was shot entirely in North Carolina, will love visiting DuPont State Forest because it was the location for three major scenes in the movie. Diehard fans of the movie might want to watch the movie or read the book before visiting.
  • You can try to spot filming locations on your own, or talk to local guides who know exactly where they are. Various companies also offer special Hunger Games tours of DuPont. This a great family activity and an opportunity to bond with your kids, who will be excited to see where their heroine Katniss fought for survival.