North Slope Trail Route Map

North Slope Trail

The North Slope Trail is a short, easy loop trail which begins from the busy Davidson River Campground in Pisgah National Forest. There’s little remarkable to say about this trail as it pretty much consists of a walk through a forest landscape that, while typical for the area, varies little along its length. Portions of the loop run alongside the Davidson River, which offers a nice change of scenery, but the river is accessible from many other places so it’s not a reason in itself to hike here. Even so, especially if you find yourself camping at Davidson River, the North Slope Trail does offer an easy extended introductory walk in the woodlands of Pisgah National Forest. While many other trails in the area frequently demand much more effort to travel, this trail then offers a more laid-back experience which for some might be a perfect option. Personally, I was out on this hike because I needed something close by due to limited time. That, and if I want to accomplish my goal of hiking all the trails in the Pisgah Ranger District I’d have to visit the North Slope sooner or later anyway. So it was that on this chilly morning I set out to make the loop. All things considered it was a pleasant hike…just not one I’ll likely revisit too many times in the future.

The North Slope Trail begins from a small parking lot just past the gate house for the Davidson River Campground. No doubt that during the busy summer season this little lot fills up frequently so, as an alternative, one can park at the nearby Art Loeb Trailhead located just outside the campground and walk the short distance in. The trail begins alongside the large kiosk at the lot, quickly passes by a campground washroom, briefly follows one of the camp loop roads, and then turns into the woods. Within a couple tenths of a mile the trail reaches a split where the loop portion of it begins. It really doesn’t matter which direction you go in here, there’s no “harder way” around this loop. Perhaps if you’d like to save the riverside portion of the hike for the end you could take a left. On this day, however, for no real reason in particular I’d take a right and do the loop counter-clockwise. Heading in this direction the trail starts by making a gradual climb up the hillside backing the campground. It’s easy going through a mostly open woods. In less than a half mile the trail then descends again heading towards the river itself. You’ll need to pay attention to trail signs here as the path makes a couple turns alongside the camp road. Once along the river the trail flattens out and, while the river is close by, there are only occasional views of it below through the thick hedges of rhododendron found here. The trail follows the Davidson River for about a half mile then once again bears left to climb the nearby ridge. For the next ¾-mile the trail climbs moderately following the drainage of a small tributary up towards the North Slope Ridge. At a point where a connector path to the nearby Art Loeb Trail intersects it, the North Slope Trail turns southeasterly to follow alongside the north slopes of its namesake ridge. For the next 1.5-miles the trail winds in and out of numerous folds in the side of the ridge, occasionally in open forest and occasionally under dense rhododendron thickets. Footbridges (one of them quite interesting) take the trail across some of the steeper drainages encountered along the way. This section is pleasantly easy with only minor changes in elevation. The end of the loop is reached as the trail dips back downhill towards the campground where it began.

So, as I stated earlier this isn’t a flashy trail by any means. It is what it is, a simple and fairly non-strenuous way to explore a portion of Pisgah’s forests. Despite the lack of scenery I quite enjoyed myself on this hike…sometimes a simple walk in the woods is all one needs to clear the soul. Without further adieu then I present the North Slope Trail of Pisgah National Forest…as always ENJOY!!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.281372, -82.725442

Route Type:  Loop                       Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzoldt Rating:  5.30 )

Hike Length:  4.3 miles                 Hike Duration:  1:45

Trailhead Temp:  30'F                  Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  2,150'                   Max. Elevation:  2,550'

Total Vertical Gain:  500'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  116'

Trails Used (blaze color):  North Slope Trail (orange)


  • No Comments